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Belly up to the bar with a toy for a tot

A holiday tradition is getting a little help thanks to some thirsty customers.

About 650 toys were gathered Monday night at the Saloon at 446 S. Coast Hwy. in Laguna Beach to benefit Toys for Tots, a program run by the U.S. Marine Corps that gives toys to children whose families can't afford them.

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Several local restaurants also donated to the cause. Staff Sgt. Michael Hutchinson loaded the presents into a truck at 9 p.m.

Michael Byrne, owner of the Saloon, said it was the pub's 11th year hosting the fundraiser. He was inspired to host a Toys for Tots collection when he and co-owner Bobby Doerr were in San Francisco visiting a friend's restaurant. The restaurant was asking patrons to donate gifts for underprivileged children.

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"We immediately thought, 'That's what we want to do to give back,'" Byrne said Wednesday. He estimated the drive at the Saloon has gathered a total of 7,000 toys over its 11 years.

"It's turned out to be one of the better community events," Byrne said.

Toys for Tots, founded in 1947, has distributed over 16.8 million toys to more than 7 million children.

—Kathleen Luppi

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