SEFFNER — For 20 years, the Cookson Hills Toy Run has been attracting motorcycle riders and community members bearing gifts annually for seniors, veterans and children and adults with special needs.
This year's run is Dec. 1 — and it could be the last.
“Doctors told us we have to stand down for medical reasons,” said founder Sheri Brown, who with her husband, Bill, received the 2012 Sharon Carter Community Service Award from the Greater Seffner Chamber of Commerce for their work with the run. “We're praying for an organization to come in and take it over. It would be a heartbreaking loss to think about all the people who are taken care of each year, that they might be forgotten again.”
The event this year is at Veterans Memorial Park and Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins Jr. Museum in Tampa, at 3602 U.S. Highway 301. Staging starts at 10 a.m. for the 1 p.m. “country ride” that covers a 20-mile loop from and to Lake Thonotosassa.
“It's about bikers and families coming together to touch souls and bring merry Christmas memories to people who otherwise might not be able to have them,” Sheri Brown said.
Riders and other community members are scheduled to pass out presents at 2:30 p.m., with a gift-unwrapping ceremony to follow.
“Often you throw toys in a box and you never see or hear another word,” Brown said. “With this event you're personally handing out those gifts to the people who are getting them and you see them unwrap them, right in front of you.”
Festivities include a barbecue picnic and “lots of entertainment,” she added. “We'll also have Santa and Mrs. Santa, sleigh rides, cotton candy and a live deejay.”
Raffle tickets for a 50/50 drawing will be sold. The live auction is from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., featuring three special items: a Henry Golden Boy .22 lever-action repeating rifle, stainless steel charcoal grill and smoker and $200 in scratch-off lottery tickets.
The event — also known as the “Down Home Makes You Feel Good All Over Cookson Hills Toy Run” — was established in honor of armed services personnel and first responders, “who have given some or all of themselves to protect freedom, lives and liberties,” Brown said. Each year the event's T-shirt reminds wearers of that fact, with words on the back that read: “In memory of those who have given all. All gave some, some gave all.”
The run has become a mission of love for the Browns, despite personal cost and medical concerns. Sheri Brown said, “We've been blessed and we want to pass those blessings on.”
Donations are needed. The “wish list” for veterans includes “items to help them get jobs” and “items to help start a home,” including bus passes, three-wheeled electric scooters, rent sponsors for homeless veterans, furniture, dishes, blankets and gift certificates for gas, restaurants and groceries. Also needed are donations to help purchase medical supplies and equipment for seniors, Brown said.
Brown said she often hears from attendees how the event has made a difference in their lives.
“The older kids, after they get too old to get toys, many of them come back to give gifts,” she added. “They tell me it's because one day a perfect stranger showed them they cared and it changed their lives.”
For information on how to participate and donate, call Sheri Brown at (813) 643-5758 email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit online at www.cook sontoyrun.com. On Facebook, go to facebook .com/CooksonHillsToy Run.