By Amy Schechter
New York Times bestseller, H. Jackson Brown, Jr. urges us to “[r]emember that children… and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.” Children truly liken to flowers and have the potential to blossom into creative, productive adults, yet many youth experience abuse and neglect right here in the Tampa area and require additional care from a responsible, loving adult in order to grow. That is where the Guardian ad Litem program enters. Through the unique relationships they form with their children, guardian’s ad litem are volunteers who act as voices for children who are experiencing the stress of shuffling through the child welfare system, and they need your support.
As a result, the 6th Annual Guardian Toy Run and Toy Drive hopes to make a positive difference. Bryan Taylor began organizing the event with his family after his father had been a guardian ad litem for a number of years.
Guardian’s ad litem try to provide gifts for their children’s birthdays and holidays. Taylor notes, “There’s not a huge bunch of them, so they are very reliant on getting donations, especially at Christmas time. They have a toy quota, but it’s never filled. It’s something the guardians want to do to give that child a toy from a person they trust and they know is acting in their best interests.” In Hillsborough county alone, there are over 3,100 children in the dependency court system, all of whom have had someone close to them let them down and may be living with relatives or with foster families. Besides the relationship guardians ad litem form with their children and the advocacy they provide on their behalves, there is so much the volunteers want to do to brighten their lives, and collecting toys is one small way they can make a big difference.
The Toy Run and Drive will be held Saturday, November 19 beginning at 10 a.m. at Tampa PC Networks, located at 11946 Boyette Rd. in Riverview. Although the event itself is designed for motorcycles, those without bikes are welcome to make a donation or meet at the after-party slated to begin at 12 Noon at One Night Stand Smokehouse, 1602 Hwy. 60 in Valrico. The entrance fee per person is $15 plus one new toy which covers food and drinks, a raffle ticket, and a t-shirt. It is sure to be a fantastic autumn ride, and more importantly, all proceeds will be donated to provide toys, batteries, and gift cards to children with the holidays soon approaching.
Taylor also hopes to plant a seed in the hearts of the community: “There’s such a shortage of guardians too because a lot of people don’t know what they are. We need guardians. Becoming a guardian ad litem, you can take on as many cases as you want and have time for.” Of the 3,100 children in Hillsborough in the dependency court system, over 1,300 do not have a guardian ad litem to act with their best interests in mind. He hopes some will attend the after party if only to talk with other guardians. You have the opportunity to change a child’s life in this role, not just make their day. To register for the event, make a donation, and more information, visit http://guardiantoyrun.org/ and email the completed form to email@example.com or fax it to 866-955-8125. You may also contact Bryan Taylor at 400-0448 or check out the excited chatter on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/guardianstoyrun?fref=ts.
For more info on becoming the voice of a child in need and to volunteer as a guardian ad litem, visit www.galtampa.org or vfcgal.org.