By Libby Hopkins

The Cookson Hills Toy Run has been referred to as “the best kept secret in the Brandon community,” but for those who have received help from the organization, it wants the community to learn more about this amazing organization. Bill and Sheri Brown of Brandon have been hosting the toy run for more than 19 years. Over those years, the Browns have faced numerous obstacles such as Bill breaking his back in 14 places, not just once but twice. He has also battled pancreatic and bile duct cancer. He has been cancer-free for over two years, but after last year’s toy run, he contracted a rare and deadly form of strep bacteria in his blood causing a multitude of strokes and damaging the mitral valve.

“In most cases, the valve has to be replaced with a mechanical or pig valve, but the damage was in a location that could be repaired,” Sheri Brown said, “Once again we were blessed.” Sheri has had some health issues over the years, but none as severe as Bill’s. Last year during the toy run, she came down with bronchial pneumonia, but she didn’t let it stop her. She was at the toy run helping those in need.

The Cookson Hill Toy Run is a non-profit organization that hosts a toy run on the first Sunday in December each year. It provides East Hillsborough County children (ages newborn-18), special needs individuals, seniors and Veterans with Christmas gifts and entertainment along with a free meal and beverage. In the last 19 years, the event has given more than 5,300 participants a day filled with precious Christmas memories. The Browns have been blessed over the years and have continued to put the toy run together by personally paying for the majority of the expenses. They have donated well over $40,000 to keep the toy run going each year and now they can no longer continue covering the expense and could use some desperate help. “Unfortunately, as with all charities, money is the main need,” Sheri Brown said. “It would be great to have local sponsors or corporations that would adopt the toy run as its company’s preferred charity organization for 2013 and beyond.”

The Browns would greatly appreciate donations of food, beverages, and gifts for older children, special needs adults, and veterans. They could also use monetary donations as well. They are planning some fundraisers to help raise money and awareness of the toy run and they would love for the Brandon and surrounding communities to get involved with their organization.

If you would like to learn more about the Cookson Hills Toy Run or if you would like to become a sponsor or make a donation, visit or contact the Browns at 643-5758.


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Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.