LAKE PARK, Ga. — Over the throaty roar of the bikes and past the glint of light shining off metal studs and leather jackets, more than 2,000 bikers and supporters brought a bevy of stuffed teddy bears, action figures, trucks and dolls to a south Georgia event in hopes of extending some holiday cheer to children in need.
For participants, Saturday marked the 23rd Annual Toy Ride near Valdosta, Georgia sponsored by the Outback Riders, an area motorcycle group.
Don Brotherton, an Outback Riders member, said:
“When we started, that was something motorcycle groups were beginning to do. It’s a way to give back to the community and make sure every child has something for Christmas.”
Each rider brings a toy that’s donated to the Salvation Army at the end of the ride and the ride also raises money for the Empty Stocking Fund, a charity serving nine of the state’s counties. There were only 50 or so riders that first year, but like many traditions, it grew in number year by year. Last year saw 1,700; this year, Brotherton estimated there were 2,100 riders.
Some riders, like Jerome Wade, have been coming to the toy ride since the beginning and have watched it grow.
“We come for the kids, man. This is for the kids.”
While the Toy Ride has become somewhat of an area tradition for those involved, several similar toy and gift drives sponsored by motorcycle clubs nationwide offer children a brighter holiday season courtesy of others’ kindness and generosity.
“The Toy Ride greatly helps out,” Major Pamela Starr with the Salvation Army said.
“We get a lot of toys from this and because of that we’re able to help at least 1,400 kids this year enjoy a nice Christmas and the magic of Santa Claus.”
Starr estimated the Salvation Army will receive 3,000 to 4,000 toys this year from the Toy Ride.
Brotherton estimated $1,430 will be donated to the Empty Stocking Fund.