It was a beautiful Saturday morning for a ride, and some 300 motorcyclists took full advantage of the weather to put smiles on families' faces.
"We've been working on it almost five months," said Russ Welch, owner of Russ Welch Harley-Davidson, "and it's a big job, but it always seems to happen.
The 16th annual Russ Welch Motorcycle Toy Run is a unique non-profit event that provides needy families with things they need for the holidays. "We get names from churches and different organizations, Food Bank and other places," said Faye Lane, one of the event's organizers. "And we go in and look at the true need of the families. We look at their position, if they're trying to make it on their own and they just need a little help."
Ten families were selected this year to receive the huge gifts. Once they select the families, solicit donations, buy and wrap the gifts -- all over a half-year period -- it's up to the hundreds of riders to bring the holiday spirit to the neighborhoods.
"It's just really a blessing to be able to help these folks," said Frank Perry, one of the event's participants. "All the folks in the community have gathered together and donated money to help buy things they need, such as refrigerators and television sets. It's not just toys for the kids."
It's not everyday that you see stuffed animals riding on the top of motorcycles, but not even leather-clad bikers are immune to the holiday season.
"There may be a misconception of motorcycle people," said participant John Mincher, "because everybody wants to belong to a group, and everybody wants to bless other people. The bikers get the biggest blessing out of this, I tell you."
"We've got a group of bikers here that normally people think are rough and tough," said Welch, "but they've got a big heart. We're able to put people together and raise a lot of necessary things for these underprivileged families."
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