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At The Heart Of The Toys Tour

Captured by speedonthewater.com chief photographer, the images from this weekend’s Toys Tour run on the St. Johns River in Central Florida paint a chilly picture of powerboat owners braving cold weather for the great cause of collecting toys for children who otherwise wouldn’t receive gifts this holiday season. But the story they don’t tell is that of 57-year-old Rus Matos, a retired Orange County Jail Correction Services officer and longtime organizer of the event, which celebrated its 17th anniversary this year.

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While Toys Tour organizer Rus Matos couldn’t make it on the water this year, his son, Louie—dressed as Iron Man—did (click image to enlarge). Photos courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.

A colorful character with a ready laugh, Matos lives by a simple creed.

“If you want your dreams to come true, you better help everybody else’s dreams come true,” he said. “Because what goes around, comes around.”

Matos didn’t take part in the actual 25-mile Saturday run to Renegades On The River—with a quick toy-drop stop along the way—in Crescent City for lunch, this year. Instead, he let his friend Dave Bogart pilot his beloved 26-foot Velocity Thoroughbred V-bottom dubbed Cousin Margaret in the event. Decked out as Iron Man (costumes are encouraged, though not required, during the event) Louie Matos, the organizer’s 16-year-old son, joined Bogart for the run.

The senior Matos opted out for health reasons. Just two weeks ago, he completed a four-week stay in a local hospital. His list of his ailments is as long as it is personal and serious, but his health issues are so significant that he struggles to walk and is forced to take frequent naps.

Matos doesn’t want sympathy—far from it. But he does want to thank everyone who participated this year, as well as the event’s sponsors including Lucas Oil, Mystic Powerboats, Express Engines and Solid Ground Concrete Pumping.

“And, of course, I have to thank the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “They support us and let us run the way we want to run.

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Almost 60 boat owners and their passengers braved cold Central Florida weather for a good cause on the St. Johns River last weekend (click image to enlarge).

“I used to do an event called the Radical Boat Reunion, and the guys I was around at the time wanted me to do another event,” he continued. “I said, ‘Let’s try this’ with the Toys Tour and now we had a political excuse to run around like wild dogs with our hair on fire. And as the years went by, it became less and less about running around like dogs with our hair on fire than it did about caring and sharing.”

Health allowing, Matos plans to continue organizing the event in the coming years. In fact, he’s literally living for it.

“I’ll keep doing this as long as I can breathe,” he said.

Related Story: Joy And Jackets Highlight Powerboat Toys Tour