Marine Forced to Stand Outside in the Cold to Collect Charity after Walmart Bans 'Solicitation'

Brittany M. Hughes | November 30, 2015

The Internet lit up with rage Monday after a Marine was forced to stand outside in the rain and cold after his local Walmart refused to let him collect donations for needy children inside the store.

John Harkness, a retired Marine, and his wife have been heading up their local Toys for Tots drive for over a decade. In past years, they stood inside the entrance to the local Walmart in Medina, Ohio, to collect donations during the Christmas season.

But this year, at the instruction of the new store manager, Harkness was told he couldn’t stand inside the store due to Walmart’s corporate policy against solicitation. Unwilling to stop taking donations, Harkness and his wife stood outside in the cold and rain.

One outraged customer snapped a photo of the uniformed Marine standing patiently outside the store and posted it on social media. It quickly went viral.

Harkness’ wife, Lynn, told the local Fox 8 station that she was concerned about the health of other veterans who may be forced to collect charity in inclement weather. From the report:

Lynn Harkness is the Toys for Tots Coordinator in Medina County. Standing in the toy warehouse Sunday, she explained that this incident was not only an issue of disrespect, but health is a factor for the volunteers.

"We have the Auxiliary and the Marines helping they are in their 60s most of them and on up. A couple of the Marines have had cancer surgery and their health isn't the best, being out in the bad weather could damage their health,” she said.

Following the backlash, Walmart released a statement:

"If a Marine or anyone was treated with disrespect, that is unacceptable and we are looking into this matter further to get the facts. Walmart's corporate policy across our more than 4500 stores does not allow this type of solicitation inside our stores and we apologize for any confusion about this policy. Most importantly, we are proud to support wonderful organizations like Toys for Tots, Girls and Boys Scouts, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross who are stationed outside our stores during the Holidays and other times. Finally, Walmart's support of our men and women in uniform both during active service and when they return home is a privilege that we strive to honor each day through our commitment to hiring hundreds of thousands of Veterans as well as the many charitable Veteran organizations we are proud to support."



It’s not the first time this year that Walmart has come under fire for how they’ve treated those who attempt to collect charity during the holiday season. Last week, the Marine Corps League in Reno, Nevada said their local Walmart had removed the donation boxes the group had set up for their annual Toys for Tots drive. Though the boxes had been set up in previous years, neither the store nor the company’s corporate office offered an explanation as to why the boxes were taken down this year. 

The Marine Corps League told KTVN that their calls to Walmart’s corporate headquarters were not returned.