WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama is urging people to giving to charities for the holiday season as she brought more than 800 gifts Friday from White House staff to donate to the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign.
The first lady also got an unexpected invitation from a soldier to be his date at next year's Marine Corps Ball.
Lance Cpl. Aaron Leeks, 20, of Frederick, Md., said he asked Obama to accompany him because he's a fan and admires her work to support the military.
When Obama was sorting toys at the charity event and came close to Leeks, he leaned over a toy bin and got her attention.
"She said she'd love to go," Leeks said. "Actually she said I'd need to speak to her husband, too, but she said she'd love to."
The first lady called over a staff member as she chatted with Leeks.
Obama has supported the Toys for Tots campaign for each of the last three years and urges White House staff each year to buy gifts to donate. She said they had a 27 percent increase in donations this year.
"It's not too late to donate," she said. "It's still important to nudge our neighbors to give, give, give."
She hauled in a big red bag of toys, slung over her shoulder to the Washington military base Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling. Organizers said the toys will be distributed in the Washington area.
Obama said anyone can make a difference this season when so many families need help. She said her daughter Malia was impressed to learn that Toys for Tots was started by the Marines.
"You all have given so much to our country, as Malia has recognized, and you just keep giving more," Obama said.
The event was Michelle Obama's last holiday stop in Washington. Later Friday, she and daughters Malia and Sasha were scheduled to depart for their annual holiday trip to see family in Hawaii.