45th Highway Hikers Toy Run a blend of ‘love and leather’ for holiday donations

The motorcycle group and the Springfield Salvation Army expect thousands of bikers in Clark County on Sunday.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Thousands of motorcyclists will hit the roads in Clark County this weekend to raise money and collect toys to provide Christmas gifts for local children.

The 45th Highway Hikers Toy Run, a collaboration between the Highway Hikers motorcycle group and the Springfield Salvation Army, will be held starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

“The Highway Hikers Toy Run is critical for us. We couldn’t do what we do for the kids at Christmas without it,” said Ryan Ray, development director of the Springfield Salvation Army. “Not to mention it injects a healthy dose of much-needed love and compassion into our county, of which we so desperately need right now. This Toy Run is the perfect combination of love and leather.”

The toy run collects toys for Clark County children in need and donates them to the Springfield Salvation Army. Bikers from Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado will ride through the county to help support families during the Christmas holidays. Bikes will begin arriving as early at 8 a.m. at the VFW Medway and start the procession around 1 p.m. through Springfield, ending at the Clark County Fairgrounds.

Organizers of the toy run are expecting at least 3,000 bikers this year, but that is also based on the weather because that “effects it dramatically,” said Barron Seeling, chaplin and public relations officer for the club.

“We never dreamed 45 years ago that it would have turned to this ... We don’t want any child in Clark County to not have Christmas,” he said. “People see the toy run and how it happens that day. If they only knew the behind-the-scenes stuff, the preparation, the due diligence the Salvation Army and their team does to make sure it happens.”

Christmas Assistance Sign-ups for the Salvation Army took place earlier this month to help children in need this holiday.

Each person that filled out a form with gift ideas was entered into a system and an Angel Tree tag was generated. Those tags will be taken into the public for community members to take from the Angel Trees beginning Nov. 1. Each family that signed up for Christmas assistance will be given a day and time to visit the fairground for toy pickup.

“I think this Toy Run and Angel Tree wakes families up to the love that exists here in our community,” Ray said. “Too many people want to focus on what we don’t have here, but what we do have here is a whole lot of people with big hearts, who are ready to help and serve and love, at the drop of a hat.”

The toy run officially kicks off the Salvation Army’s Christmas Campaign as toys are collected to be distributed to families and children in the area.

“These toys are necessary in order to ensure that every child in Clark County wakes up to toys under the tree Christmas morning. Christmas isn’t about ‘stuff,’ it’s about love and giving,” Ray said.

Ray said anyone with a motorcycle and “heart for the children” is encouraged to participate. Those who want to participate in the Toy Run can donate a new toy or $10. Others can also volunteer by arriving at the fairgrounds by 1 p.m. near the youth building to accept the toys from the motorcyclists and help bag them.

The Springfield Salvation Army stores the toys until they are needed on Nov. 27 when the Toy Shop officially opens, and they are sorted and filled until it closes on Dec. 17. Community members can volunteer from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Youth Building to sort and distribute the toys. Groups of six or more should contact Jamie Scanlon at jamie.scanlon@use.salvationarmy.org if they’d like to volunteer together.

“This is a massive undertaking, so the more businesses, organizations, churches, families, teams, etc. get involved in this process, the better,” Ray said. “It will literally be some of the most enjoyable volunteer work you’ve ever experienced, especially when you fully grasp what is being accomplished here.”

The toy distribution then takes places on Dec. 14, where parents pick up the toys that have been bagged for the kids.

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