FOR CHILDREN, the sight of toys under their Christmas tree is one of the earliest memories of fundamental joy. The sight is a once-a-year magical promise that they will always be given what they want, and will never know deprivation.

And that's why there's probably nothing sadder than the trees barren of toys. Every year, too many children experience that deprivation.

This year is no exception. In fact, this year, more children than ever may be deprived of Christmas' promise. The Marine Corps Reserve, which has collected toys for needy tots for 50 years, reports that donations of new toys are down dramatically. In fact, the corps has declared a toy emergency.

It's not too late to help. The ownership of the Daily News, Inquirer and Philly.com is helping the Toys for Tots cause. You can drop off your donation of a new unwrapped toy to the lobby of our building, at 400 N. Broad St., by Monday, and we'll make sure the city's children don't wake up to an empty tree.

Or go to www.toysfortotsphila.org to find a location near you. It's a small step that will bring lots of joy. *