Each of the four teams in the basketball tournament wanted to win, but they all agreed that the day was about the kids. Everyone at the gym could see it in the boxes of toys piled in the court’s corner.
“We’re excited about how much support we’ve gotten, and we hope this grows even bigger next year,” said Marine Corps Col. Daniel Lecce, assistant judge advocate general for military law.
Toy donations collected at the tournament filled over three tall boxes. Marines were on hand to thank the teams for their contributions. The tournament raised 237 gifts for Toys for Tots, while collection boxes at the Washington Navy Yard and Pentagon provided an additional 194 toys.
The tournament, held on December 4, 2015 on board Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, was the work of Legalman 1st Class (AW) Dexter Robison, Region Legal Service Office Naval District Washington (RLSO NDW), and Marine Corps Sgt. Marcellous Dixon, Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG), Administrative Support Division (Code 40).
“When I was a kid, presents weren’t guaranteed. Charities helped my siblings and me wake up Christmas morning to something under the tree,” Robison said. “Now that I can, I want to give back.” He chose Toys for Tots because a Marine collecting toys was his first interaction with the U.S. military.
What started as a single game challenge between OJAG and Navy Legal Service Command (NLSC) quickly grew. The OJAG team had too many people volunteer to play. Robison and Dixon decided to have two OJAG teams—one Navy, one Marines.
“Then NAVSEA [Naval Sea Systems Command] heard about what we were doing and told me they wanted to play,” Robison recalled. He planned a four-team, five-on-five tournament. Each team wore one of the colors of the sea services: blue, gold, red, and green.
A crowd cheered, groaned, and encouraged from the bleachers above the court. All of the Navy and Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals were on hand and many family members attended as well. “I saw a lot of teamwork and energy,” said Lt. j.g. Dan Grunert, RLSO NDW. “But some of them played really well, surprisingly well.”
One fan favorite also respected by other players was Capt. Tammy Tideswell of the Navy OJAG team, who had six points and 3 rebounds in her first game. Also impressive was Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class David Wheat, Washington Navy Yard Branch Health Clinic. Wheat, who previously earned his Fleet Marine Force designation, again assisted the Marines by taking the place of an injured player for Marines OJAG.
The teams played four games that afternoon. In the end, the team from NAVSEA celebrated as the tournament winner. Second place went to the Navy team from OJAG. The NLSC team, with players from both RLSO NDW and DSO North, took third.
Robison’s dream is to have a much larger tournament next year, with three-on-three teams and multiple games happening. He has already turned over the reins to Legalman 2nd Class Andre Booker, RLSO NDW.
“I’m all over next year’s event,” said Booker. “This first tournament was a success, and I think next year will have an even better turnout, since even more people will get involved.”
Fortunately, everyone else left the tournament talking about next year as well.