By Libby Hopkins
The Cookson Hills Toy Run is known to many in the Brandon community as “the down home, make you feel good all over” holiday event of the year. Bill and Sheri Brown of Seffner started the toy run in 1993 after they went to a yard sale at the former Cookson Hills Children’s Home in Seffner. “We discovered that the children didn’t receive much in the way of Christmas presents,” Sheri Brown said. The Browns contacted some of their friends and asked them to help bring Christmas gifts to the children at the home. “The children were forgotten in the community and this was the perfect opportunity to touch several lives at one time,” Brown said. That was 18 years ago and on Sunday, December 2 of this year the toy run will celebrate its 19th year of helping children and special needs adults in Brandon and the surrounding communities.
The toy run will begin at Veteran’s Memorial Park located at 3602 North U.S. Hwy. 301 in Tampa at 10 a.m. and will end at Evans Park which is located at 1104 N. Kingsway Rd. in Seffner. The gift unwrapping ceremony takes place at the end of the run at 3 p.m. and everyone is treated to a barbeque and other festivities. The goal of the toy run is to help the “forgotten” children falling through the system; age’s newborn to 18-years-old as well as special needs adults and Veterans. Since its existence, the Browns and their volunteers have provided over 4,200 recipients with Christmas presents and a picnic that gives everyone in attendance wonderful Christmas memories. “We never dreamed the event would create a life of its own,” Brown said “Usually folks lose interest in charities and events fall by the wayside.” She believes people keep volunteering because they love the feeling they get from helping those in need.
“God set us on a path, you could call it a quest to touch souls,” Brown said, “Our lives have been forever changed because of the miracles we have witnessed and received in return, and we now recognize God’s hand in the creation of those miracles.” The volunteers who come to the event to help others still amaze her. She said if it weren’t for them, there would be no toy run. The Browns are still looking for sponsors, volunteers and donations for this year’s toy run. For more information on the toy run or if you would like to help the Browns, you can visit their website at www.cooksontoyrun.com or call them at 643-5758.