As high-performance boating events go, the Toys Tour in Palatka, Fla., is neither splashy nor sexy. It typically doesn’t attract the latest and greatest catamarans and V-bottoms from the go-fast powerboat world. It doesn’t arrive at a swanky destination. And yet the annual early December happening produced by Floridian Rus Matos is among the most compelling and heartwarming—for all the right reasons—events of the year.
Rus Matos: “If you want your dreams to come true, you better help everybody else’s dreams come true.” Photos courtesy Rus Matos
As has been widely reported on social media including on the Toys Tour Facebook page, Matos died yesterday after battling a long illness. The 59-year-old former corrections officer was in the hospital during this year’s event, which went off in fine fashion despite his absence.
Like many of you, we were hoping his absence would be temporary. Like many of you, we learned yesterday that it is not.
Matos was pure heart. He ran on the joy of doing for others, in this case spearheading a holiday event that delivered toys for children in need. No finer motivation exists, and no one better embraced and embodied it than Matos.
“If you want your dreams to come true, you better help everybody else’s dreams come true,” said Matos in a 2017 speedothewater.com article. “Because what goes around, comes around.”
“He was really down to earth,” said T.J. Bailey, the South Carolina-based founder of Boatfreaks.org—a popular online community—and a longtime Toys Tour participant. “His big thing was trying to make sure that all the kids down there had a great Christmas, or at least the best Christmas they could. That area down there is so impoverished. With Rus, it was always ‘Bring as many toys as you can.’ That was him.”
Bailey said he believes the event, which celebrated its 19th anniversary this month, will continue. “I can’t see how it wouldn’t,” he said. “It has such a great, loyal following.”
Said Matos (left) in 2017, “I’ll keep doing this as long as I can breathe.”
Angels walk among us. They come in many forms, and from all walks of life. Rus Matos was one of them. May he rest in peace.