Over the weekend, the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club and Bayshore Cove Mobile Home Park combined forces in an effort to provide Christmas cheer for underprivileged children across the U.S. through the Toys for Tots program.
The event was free and yielded multiple, large boxes filled with toys and a number of new bicycles.
Aida Lopez is a Bayshore Cove Mobile Home Park resident and the original founder of the event, but she has picked up some helpful support along the way.
"I saw Toys for Tots on television a few years back and wanted to get involved," Lopez recalled.
Lopez, a retired teacher, says that she was drawn to the program because of her love for children. With a solid history in volunteering, Lopez added that the Toys for Tots event is another reason for her to smile.
Three years ago, Lopez was joined by Dave Laskey, who suggested the event aspect, which includes a kayaking excursion in the morning and a free luncheon.
And when they say "luncheon," they really mean "feast." Laskey was joined by supporter Bob Park in preparing pulled pork, Greek salad and potato salad for the event. Lopez provides homemade cookies for dessert.
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This year, the kayakers experienced good weather, according to Laskey. Dolphins and manatee swam new the pack, and the outing brought together kids aged 3 to 73.
Since Bayshore Cove Mobile Home Park is a hop, skip and a jump away from the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club, the collaboration was inevitable.
Yacht Club Vice Commodore Maryanne Irving says that she has been promoting the toy drive for almost a month and folks have been donating ever since.
"We are all pretty well blessed and we want to give something to those who aren't," Irving said.
Lopez and company were excited for the event's growth in just three years time. The first year, four bikes were donated with six donated last year.
This year, eight bikes were donated from the efforts.
"It has really grown and we hope to keep progressing each year," Laskey added.
The group agrees that they have goals in place for the annual event. Next year, the group hopes to donate 10 bicycles.
Lopez is happy with the growth of the event and says that the children are the motivation.
"My heart feels so good," Lopez said. "I will continue to keep on doing it as long as there's a breath in this body."
Toys for Tots was first organized in 1947 and was started by a U.S. Marine by the name of Colonel William L. Hendricks. The program seeks to provide a new toy to underprivileged youth on Christmas, in hopes of a brighter future.
Toys for Tots Drives take place all over the United States.