Written by Youseph Rasheed Thursday, 26 December 2013 00:00
It was warmer than average this past Friday, Dec. 20, on the last day before the official arrival of winter. Boxes of toys were stacked up high inside and outside of the Police Benevolent Association in Freeport for the annual United State Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.
Inside the PBA headquarters, Retired Marine Major Chuck Kilbride was hard at work, overseeing operations for the event that delivers gifts to underprivileged kids.
“I do it because I want to give back to the community,” said Major Kilbride, as he sorted through a myriad of games and dolls piled atop large brown tables inside. “I do it because it makes me feel good...putting smiles on children’s faces.”
Maj. Kilbride’s life truly embodies the All-American tale. Born Dec. 14, 1952 at the Mitchel Field Air Force Base in Garden City, Kilbride grew up in Levittown and was the fifth of six children born to Major John P. Kilbride and Agnes Gilligan in a Roman Catholic home.
“I had a very fortunate upbringing,” Kilbride said as he nostalgically looked up towards the ceiling. “You really couldn’t ask for anything better.”
As a boy, Kilbride attended Summit Lane Elementary School. “I was a typical kid,” he explained. “I loved playing baseball and football. Levittown was a great place to grow up. Everyone knew everyone and it was a safe neighborhood too.” Kilbride played defensive end for Division Avenue High School. He said, “Our biggest rival was Hicksville, but we always won. We were a great team.”
After Kilbride graduated from Division Avenue High School in 1971 he immediately enlisted in the United States Marines Corps. One short year later he married his high school sweetheart Sandi Kress. “I have the greatest wife in the world,” he said. “We have been married for 41 wonderful years. Together we have four wonderful children who are all West Point Graduates.”
Kilbride attended C.W. Post and graduated in 1978 with a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and a Minor in Criminal Justice. For his masters Kilbride attended National University in San Diego, Calif., where he received a degree in management.
Kilbride described how he became the Chairman of Toys for Tots in Nassau County and said “The Marines asked me if I wanted to be in charge of toys for tots and I said sure, why not? One of my best memories is when I was up in North Shore Hospital delivering toys to the pediatric unit. There was a little girl who had just got her third bone marrow transplant. She looked up at one of the Marines that was with us and told him he was her hero. The Marine took off his medals pinned them on the little girl and told her ‘No, you are my hero.’ It really goes to show you that the Marines are the kid next store. They have heart. They are there to serve and protect.”
Reverend William A. Watson Jr.—a pastor at the Free Will Baptist Church in Freeport and the St. John’s Baptist Church in Westbury—arrived at the Freeport P.B.A. offices to pick up the donated gifts and deliver them to the children. Rev. Watson told The Levittown
Tribune, “I have known Maj. Kilbride for 22 years. He is a great friend, a great activist, and a great asset to mankind.”
Today, Kilbride lives happily with his wife in Levittown, where he is always willing to take time to serve the community.
“I have it all,” Kilbride said, reflecting back on his life. “I have had it all for quite some time. I am a truly lucky guy.”