Chapter M Participates in the Cookson Hills Toy Run
Earlier this year Chapter M joined four other GWRRA chapters in the Tampa Bay area to help host a Five Chapter Poker run, in support of the Cookson Hills Christmas gift event which was organized years ago by Bill and Sheri Brown. The proceeds from our poker run alone totaled about two thousand dollars, in which every penny went into purchasing gifts for the special needs kids that the organization supports. With the support of the many other bay area bikers generosity, Bill and Sheri raised over four thousand two hundred dollars for the event this year.
Unlike many other toy runs that take place during the Christmas holidays, this one was really meaningful and truly tugged at your heart. Most toy runs start at a gathering location, then take a nice bike ride to a location where the bikers drop off their gifts, which will then be handed out at a later date by the organization that the toy run supports. Bill and Sheri have set up this Toy Run quite differently. The riders representing GWRRA rode in as a group to Veterans Memorial Park, which is east of Tampa on highway 301, the location that Bill and Sheri had set up for the Auction and Ride to begin. There we join with about one thousand other people. In all there were over 350 motorcycles and numerous vintage cars that had gathered at that location.
Following the auction, Harleys, Hondas and crotch rockets headed out on an escorted one hour ride through the rural backroads of Hillsborough County. The ride ended at the Cookson Hills Childrens Complex in Seffner, Florida.
For those of us that had not attended a previous years ride, the site we were about to see would leave a lasting impression. There before us was an enormous tent. Sitting quietly on neatly arranged blankets under that tent were over 450 children, infants to teenagers.
This picture sort of tells you what we experienced.
There before us were over 450 children that, because of some unfortunate twist of life, were not going to have any Christmas. Each child held a small piece of cardboard with their first name followed by the first letter of their surname, then by G (girl) or B (boy) and their age. Imagine seeing 450 of these children holding these signs, looking at you with the hope that you would offer them a gift. A teddy bear, a book, a game just anything would bring a smile to any of these childrens faces, followed by a polite Thank You.
Those of us who brought individual gifts based on the age and sex of the child distributed our gifts first. Then, those gifts that were purchased by the monies that the poker run and contributions gained by Sheri and Bill were handed out. It was amazing to see the effect that sharing has on both the recipients and the donors.
I would like to relate to you what happened to my wife and I as the event wound down and the children gathered their gifts and headed out with their parents. My wife and I were about to mount our bike when a mother followed by her three children came over to us and said Thank you very much for what you folks have done for us. With tears in her eyes she said that had it not been for this event and our generosity their family would not have had any gifts for Christmas this year. This spring her husband had been diagnosed with brain cancer and recently, because of this condition, had lost his job. She then hugged us and again thanked us for the glimmer that we had brought to her childrens eyes. The smiles on her childrens faces had brought the true meaning of Christmas to us. Certainly the joy of giving has greater rewards than those of receiving.
A special thanks to those members who participated in the poker run and the event itself. Your donations and time were truly appreciated.