St. Johns County

St. Johns County boy collecting toys for children in need ahead of holidays

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A St. Johns County boy is on a mission to make the holidays special this year for underprivileged children. Manny Cole may be just 10 years old, but he’s motivated to make a difference.

“My favorite part of giving back is how I can inspire people,” Cole said. Last year, Cole started a toy drive, so children in need could have presents underneath their Christmas tree. With help from the community, he filled one U-Haul truck with thousands of toys. Cole said he was able to help hundreds of families. “It feels good to make a difference,” Cole said.

He’s setting the bar even higher this year. “My mission is to do bigger this year,” Cole said.

His goal is to pack two U-Haul trucks with toys. It’s a big undertaking, so Cole is asking for the community’s help again in donating new toys.

Michael Cole said he encourages his son every year to give back to the community. He said his son came up with the toy drive on his own. “I’m extremely proud. He’s a great kid. He has the biggest heart in the world. I love doing this stuff with him,” Mr. Cole said. He said the need is going to be even greater this year because of the financial strain COVID-19 has caused for families. “A lot of people have lost jobs and a lot of people are on hard times right now,” Mr. Cole said. “We are very blessed and fortunate to be in a situation to be able to help.”

Cole’s youth football team, the Creeks 10U Outlaws, is on board to help with the toy drive. Head coach Jim McLeod said he’s proud of Cole’s motivation to help others. “He’s unbelievable. I’ve coached for 10 or 15 years now and I’ve never coached a kid like him, as selfless as he is. He’s all about his teammates, helping people,” McLeod said. As a coach, McLeod said he tries to teach his players about being good young men on and off the field. “This is such a tremendous way for us to give back and show these boys, you know, what, you know, what Christmas is all about,” McLeod said. “It’s about giving and helping others.”

You can find more information on the toy drive by clicking here.

They will be collecting donations at the field house of Julington Creek Plantation Park on Oct. 20 and Oct. 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The plan is to deliver the gifts to the Salvation Army and Wolfson Children’s Hospital Dec. 12.