Seffner Resident Gives Back with Ceremonial White Dove Releases
Captain J.A. Lewis is the 2012 recipient of the Greater Seffner Area Chamber of Commerce's Sharon Carter Community Service Award. At the Cookson Hills Toy Run on Dec. 2, his dove release showed the reasoning behind his recognition.
Captain J.A. Lewis was on duty Dec. 2 at the 19th annual Cookson Hills Toy Run at Evans Park in the Greater Brandon community of Seffner, with 40 doves in tow and a mission to do good unto others.
With his company, Stardust Promotions, based just about a mile away from Evans Park, Lewis said he wouldn't have missed the toy run for anything. The 20-mile trek starts at the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum in Tampa and calls upon motorcyclists to ride bearing holiday gifts in a show of compassionate solidarity for special needs people of all ages and now, as well, seniors, veterans with no family and the “forgotten children” of eastern Hillsborough County.
"It's here in Seffner, I've lived here for 30 years and this what something everybody can do, at the local level, to help others," Lewis said.
This year, Lewis received from the Greater Seffner Area Chamber of Commerce the Sharon Carter Community Service Award, named posthumously for a woman Lewis knew, back in the days when he served with her on the chamber's board of directors.
"I was on the board of directors when we proposed making the award in her memory," Lewis said. "If it weren't for Sharon Carter the chamber wouldn't even be here. It almost folded about eight years ago and she's the one who prodded everybody until we got it going again."
Receiving the award this year "felt great," he added, "just to get recognized for whatever you do."
What Lewis does, among other things, is donate his services, ceremonial white dove releases, for special community events and for funerals and memorial services for fallen heroes and first responders.
Lewis said he has about 120 doves. Training them, he added, "is rough."
"It's like kids," he said. "You raise them to go a little more, to go a little more, but in the end you'll get them to come home."
Lewis uses whistles and bells to train his doves, taking them out a little farther each time, "until you are comfortable they can come back home."
His Web site, for Stardust Promotions, where he sells promotional products, notes that the division for ceremonial white dove releases caters as well to weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, bar mitvahs, bat mitvahs, quinceaneras and other special events and gatherings.
"The dove symbolizes peace, hope and unity," Lewis notes on his Web site. "When the doves are released, they circle several times overhead, allowing the crowd to fully admire their beauty. The experience of the release is breathtaking, and "ooh's" and "aah's" are heard from those who witness the special event."
Such was the occurrence Dec. 2 at the Cookson Hills Toy Run at Evans Park, where a gathering of adults and children witnessed the release of doves (see the video posted with this report). Among them was Lori Libhart, president of the Seffner area chamber.
"He does this for all of our fallen soldiers," Libhart said. "He's just our all-around good guy. What he does with the doves, it has such a profound meaning to people who have lost a loved one."
As for Lewis, he in return sees in the work of Sheri Brown, with her husband Bill Brown, an undertaking of profound importance. Without the Browns, and their tireless efforts, the Cookson Hills Toy Run would not have been founded, or still in existence, he said.
This year, Sherri Brown also was up for the Sharon Carter Community Service Award. "She deserves the award," Lewis said. "If anybody deserves it next year, she does. I'll be the first one to nominate her, without a doubt."