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As we roll toward the end of an unusually challenging year for many, there's some bright spots to be seen, one of which is shining in California tonight. MGA Entertainment and the Marine Toys for Tots program have been working together in order to brighten the holidays for some of the many children whose families were affected by the devastating wildfires that ravaged parts of both Northern and Southern California last month. The team at MGA will be providing more than $5M in new toys that are expected to bring joy to an estimated 300,000 kids in California and in other parts of the country where disaster has struck.

As we enter one of the most unusually competitive holiday seasons in recent memory, despite the closure of Toys "R" Us in the U.S., parents and other gift-givers have more options than ever for where to by toys. Local toy stores still exist, and one company that's been around for a few decades is Learning Express. While it might be a chain with around 110 locations, each store is a local, family-owned franchise that's catered to the communities that they serve. That means that while each store may be a little different, they're all focused on delivering what kids want. Staffed by toy experts that can demonstrate the latest toys as they stay on top of current trends, they also offer a personal touch with services like holiday and birthday registries, free gift-wrapping, in-store pick-up and a host of regular events (which I've taken my girls to on occasion). In addition to launching their 2018 Holiday Catalog, Learning Express has named their Holiday Hot Toys of 2018, so it's time to take a look...

I'm all about recognizing those that are doing good, and while I work on my own, hyper-local Rock Father Santa Holiday Toy Delivery Program during the Holiday season, it's always great to see what the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is accomplishing nationwide. Sadly, I've heard that their donations have been light the past few years (something I ran into here last year), but this year they're getting a big boost, and it comes from the good folks at Hasbro. For 2017, Hasbro has unveiled a new holiday matching campaign that will bring joy to even more children in need. For every new, unwrapped toy or game donated by individuals to any Toys for Tots local campaign through the 2017 holiday season, Hasbro will also donate a new toy or game as part of its BE FEARLESS BE KIND philanthropic initiative, up to one million gifts!