Giving Season

Toy Drive participants raft up in the crystal-clear Silver Glen Springs.

Toys Drive brings holiday cheer to kids in need. 

By Gregg Mansfield Photos by Walter Braithwaite Jr/Wally Captures

Ryan Bradley had some nerves pulling his boat up as the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office personnel were standing on the dock and hundreds of people were cheering on the shoreline.

Bradley was handing off bags of new toys to the deputies at the Toys Tour stop in Central Florida, who then distributed the gifts to children without a toy for Christmas. Putnam County is one of the poorest counties in Florida, so the toys go a long way in the community.

Putnam County Sheriff’s Office personnel collect gifts at the Walaka city dock.

“When you get to the dock that’s when you’re just in awe because you don’t realize how big this is,” said Bradley, a sponsor and co-owns RYCO Marine with Marco Brummund. “I mean people aren’t showing up there with a teddy bear. They’re showing up there with bags and tons of stuff like we did.”

The Toys Tour attracted more than 300 participants and 115 boats for the early December event. Velocity Powerboats CEO Scott McCormick organized the 2023 Toys Tour and worked with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office to stage the two-day charity event.

McCormick promised the Toys Tour founder Rus Matos, who passed away in 2019, he would continue the event to support the Florida community.

“This is the last boating get-together of the year, and we want to finish on a high note of giving back,” McCormick said. “The boating community has a big heart and will always rally for a good cause.”

Volunteers formed a human chain to load the over 700 donated gifts into a trailer.

The boating community did rally for the kids of Putnam County, which is about 50 miles south of Jacksonville. Boaters donated over 700 gifts at the dock and drop-off locations at Crystal Cove, Renegades on the River, and 3 Bananas. 

Boaters drop off Christmas gifts to be distributed to needy children in the area.

It cost $45 to register for the Toys Tour and included a T-shirt and three meals. Organizers kept the cost low thanks to sponsorships so that poker runners would spend more on toys for the children. Participants were entered into a free raffle and among the prizes were Simrad screens and Mercury Racing propellers.

The Toys Tour’s end-of-year status, Florida’s sunshine and helping needy children are a draw for performance boaters such as Del Flores, president of the Spartan Powerboat Club in New Jersey, who has a Statement catamaran. Flores and McCormick partnered to handle emcee duties during the Saturday night party and raffle giveaways.

“You can’t even imagine how many kids don’t have Christmas presents and we don’t know that struggle,” Flores said. “What we know from the Putnam County (Sheriff) is that we put a lot of smiles on kids’ faces with this charity,”

Velocity Powerboats CEO Scott McCormick organized and led the 2023 Toys Tour.
Jake Scott, 15, drove his father Dave’s boat at the Toys Tour in Florida.
Velocity Powerboats CEO Scott McCormick leads a toast for the Toys Tour’s late founder Russ Matos.

Friday’s run was led by the Putnam County Sheriff’s office with the boats passing through Dunns Creek State Park to 3 Bananas restaurant, which closed to the public to host the lunch.

Later that evening, the kickoff party featured an all-you-can-eat low country boil that included shrimp, crab legs and mussels. Aunt tt’s Sweet Treats provided the ice cream while DJ Louie and Diamond Dave handled the tunes.

The Toys Tour featured a low country boil.

Saturday’s run was delayed for 30 minutes by fog but once it cleared the boats were off to deliver the toys. The first stop was the Walaka city docks where law enforcement, firefighters, volunteers and children lined up to collect the gifts, forming a 100-plus-foot human chain to load the toys into a trailer to be sorted later for distribution.

“It is definitely a sight to behold,” Bradley said. “I was in awe of everybody pulling up to the docks, watching the families and the people we met in town coming to see all the boats.”

From the Walaka docks, the boats went to Renegades on the River for lunch and live music. McCormick credited Renegades’ managers Cathy Beckett and Candace Driggers for hosting the lunch, which included an outside kitchen with private seating.

“The love and passion really showed in the effort to pull something this big off,” McCormick said.

Boats rafted up in Silver Glen Springs.

After lunch some of the boats traveled over to Silver Glen Springs, a freshwater spring with crystal-clear water. The constant 72-degree temperature draws manatees to the natural spring for the winter.

Saturday night’s banquet dinner always features the late founder’s son Louie Matos as the DJ. In addition to raffling off $15,000 in prizes, McCormick led a champagne toast to Rus Matos and the tradition he started in Putnam County.

Flores knows firsthand what it costs to stage a boating event the caliber of the Toys Tour and appreciates that organizers aren’t charging more.

“The event has a really cool dynamic and an amazing purpose,” Flores said. “I’m really blessed to be part of it.”

The poster for the 2023 Toys Tour.


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