Toy run hits 17-year mark

This Saturday, area residents might find themselves asking, "Is that a giant stuffed Garfield with a Tonka Truck on the back of that motorcycle?"

That's right, it's time for the 17th annual Biker Toy Run where motorcyclists ride from the 7 Cedars Casino in Blyn to the Eagles Bar & Ballroom in Port Angeles to raise awareness of Salvation Army efforts that support families in tough financial situations over the holiday season.

The ride started 17 years ago when a group of women bikers sat around a table trying to figure out how to help a family they knew to be in financially dire straits.

"I was at the table. It didn't take long for us to realize we could help the best way we know how, by riding," said Verna Yaun, president of the Clallam County Mothers Club, an all-women biker group that organized the event.

"We thought it was going to be hard this year to get the support needed to have a great run, but the county's businesses showed us that even in a financially tough year they know there are others that are impacted the most, especially children."

The event is entirely operated by volunteers and donations.

The bikers bring a new toy to the casino, strapped to the back of their bike. The toys are given to children who otherwise might not get gifts at Christmastime. All donations are channeled through the Salvation Army.

"It is an exciting event for us," said Major Hal Hads with the Port Angeles division of the Salvation Army. "It's a great way to meet unique people with different backgrounds and beautiful bikes and the whole thing really kick-starts our holiday efforts."

While an all-women biker group started the run, everyone is welcome to join.

"We are not exclusive by any means," Yaun said. "We get bikers from all over the region, including Canada, Oregon and, of course, the Seattle area."

Yaun said there would be Salvation Army representatives at both the casino and the ballroom to accept toy donations from those who will not ride with the group or those who do not have a motorcycle.

"We want the community involved as much as possible; everyone is welcome at both locations," Yaun said, indicating she hopes bikers will keep the toys on their bikes if they can, in order to draw the attention of others en route.

"We want people to realize there are others in tough situations. Plus, we always hope we challenge the negative stereotype people have of bikers."

The event has drawn upwards of 200 bikers in the past. Last year the riders numbered around 150, according to the organizer.

"Many people have an image of bikers in their minds and bringing toys to underprivileged kids isn't usually a part of that image," said Hads. "But I can tell you, this event is fun and the impact they have on our ability to service this community is huge."

The only restriction for the event is that all toys must be new and unwrapped so organizers can see them. Checks written to the Salvation Army also are welcome. All proceeds from the ballroom dinner and concert go to the Salvation Army as well.

Participants in the 17th annual Biker Toy Run depart Nov. 1 from the 7 Cedars Casino, 270756 Highway 101, at 3:30 p.m. and head to the Eagles Bar & Ballroom, 110 S. Penn St., for food, live music and door prizes. The cost to enter the ballroom is $7 per person and $10 for a couple. All proceeds go to the Salvation Army.

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