On Sunday, December 1, the Cookson Hills Toy Run will be celebrating its 20th anniversary of helping those in need in the Brandon community. Bill and Sheri Brown started the event in 1993 after they went to a yard sale at the Cookson Hills Christian Ministries Children’s Home in Seffner. The couple got some of their friends together and they gave the children in the home a very special Christmas that year. The Browns and their friends loved how helping these forgotten children made them feel, so they decided to do the event again the following year and it kept going every year since then. “It was a huge success and as the event grew, special needs individuals and Veterans were included in the event,” Sheri said. The Brandon Chamber of Commerce calls the toy run “The best kept secret in Hillsborough County” because not that many people know about the event. It has grown solely on word of mouth. Those who are involved with the toy run know how special it is and how it brings joy to so many who live difficult lives. The toy run has never had any corporate funding, just small local businesses and the Browns keep the event alive each year. That may all change very soon if more people from the community don’t get involved with the toy run and help keep it going. The couple has had some very serious health issues come up over the last year and they are still paying off the bills incurred from last year’s toy run. “In the 19 years of the toy run, the event only paid for itself one time which was in 2011,” Sheri said. “We started this event in 1993 and have continuously paid the extended expenses, but there are no more personal funds we can draw on to pay for the event.”
The toy run’s budget is $15,000 a year with $9,000 to $10,000 of that budget paying for the gifts for the special need seniors and Veterans. The rest of the budget goes to operating costs. The Browns are still looking for sponsors and donations for the toy run. Sponsorship levels start at $50 and go up to $300. If you would like to be a sponsor or if you would like to make a donation to the toy run, you can contact Sheri Brown at 842-2982. If you would like to learn more about The Cookson Hills Toy Run or to see what items they need donated, you can visit their website at www.cooksontoyrun.com. The toy run will be held at Veteran’s Memorial Park located on Hwy 301 in Tampa. The event staging begins at 10 a.m. The 20-mile toy run begins at 1 p.m. and then the bikers return to Veteran’s park for a barbeque and gift opening beginning at 2:30 p.m.