Highlands grad helps children through Tim’s Toy Box initiative

Tim’s Toy Box is an initiative that collects toys for children who are involved in a traumatic experience involving law enforcement.

Tim’s Toy Box was started by recent Highlands School graduate Brianna Norris, in memory of her father, Tim Norris, who was shot to death during a home invasion in Cashiers four years ago. Brianna was 14 years old at the time and said any sort of comfort would have been welcome.

“At such a young age, going through something like that was difficult to process,” Brianna said. “If I had something to comfort me, it would have made it more understandable, especially around police. Kids sometimes associate law enforcement with negativity, and this helps form a relationship between the officer and child.”

Brianna organizes toy drives at drop off locations in the area and then distributes the donated toys to local law enforcement and EMS crews in Macon County. Toys collected from the most recent drive were collected by Blazing Skeleton Riding Club and distributed by Brianna and her mother, Tami, to law enforcement agencies in Highlands and Franklin.

Highlands Police Chief Andrea Holland said there are many calls HPD receives where a child could benefit from receiving a toy; including traffic accidents, abuse calls, home invasions, or bullying activity.

“A toy can decrease stress during a traumatic experience by taking their mind off the situation for a brief moment,” said Holland. “The toy can create a positive encounter between a law enforcement officer and the child and influence trust the child may not initially have for the officer.”

Tami said after Tim’s death, Brianna was in need of extended family support and could have benefited from any comfort as she experienced an adult situation as a young teenager.  

“I’m proud of Brianna’s initiative in organizing this project in memory of her dad,” said Tami. “It shows her desire to keep her father’s memory alive and assist in supporting the community and law enforcement.”

Holland said the HPD thanks Brianna for her generosity and commitment to children within this community.

“Brianna’s toy drive illustrates how she cares for the children in her community,” said Holland. “Her unselfish act expresses she understands that a simple kind gesture may create a brighter day for a child. Brianna’s toy drive displays a mindset for leadership and compassion, which may promote a mirroring effect for other high school and college students to follow.”

Brianna said support for Tim’s Toybox has grown since it began in Feb. 2019.

“I appreciate every individual and business that recognizes the need and has supported my cause,” she said.

Toy drives are often organized around Tim’s birthday on June 28 but are held throughout the year.

Tim’s stepson, Thomas Palmer, is charged with Tim’s murder and is in jail in Jackson County awaiting a trial date.

Pictured at the top of the article is Brianna Norris dropping off collected toy’s for children at the Highlands Police Department with HPD Officer Kyle Kinsland. 

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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