As an avid motorcyclist for the past 25 years, I can’t tell you how many charity runs I have attended. Like you, Toy Runs are one of my favorites for a number of reasons.
I guess there’s just something about bundling up and heading out in the cold weather on a mission to do something good. Also, the Toy Runs mark the “end of the season” around these parts, adding to the camaraderie and social significance of these early winter events.
More often than not, the average rider does not have the opportunity to witness the fruits of their labor. As with most charitable donations, once you “write the check”, that’s where the involvement stops. A person can always hope for and trust that their efforts are put to good use. One outstanding exception to the rule is the Toys for Tots program in Colorado Springs. This year the season kick off was the 21st annual High Country Toy Run. With all the usual Toy Run fanfare, about 2,500 toys and over $10,000 was raised at this, southern Colorado’s largest event of its type.
Later that month, a group of ladies connected to the United States Marine Corps and the motorcycle community went on several missions to local toy outlets and spent the funds raised from the run on additional toys.
Ongoing efforts through mid December included Marine Corps Collection boxes at many locations around Colorado Springs, toy collections at the United States Air Force Academy by the “Section 8” cadets, and on air Toy Drives conducted by local sister radio stations, KILO 94.3FM and KRXP 103.9FM.
With all efforts combined, the pile of available toys grew into a small mountain, and as Christmas rapidly approached the next stage of the effort began. “The generosity and outpouring of the Christmas spirit really speaks volumes about our community.” said Pam Wear of Pro Promotions. “Even in these economic times folks have really stepped up, and we appreciate it.” Pro Promotions is the Colorado based motorcycling event company that spear heads the Toys for Tots program in Colorado Springs for 2009. “Since there is no Marine Corps Reserve Unit in southern Colorado, and due to the loss of the only “official” Toys for Tots coordinator here in town, a group of us have volunteered to work with the local Marine Corps Recruiters to make sure that our local kids in need get hooked up.” said Wear.
The distribution of the thousands of toys collected was a monumental task, but the Marines and bikers were determined to make it happen. To begin, a huge load of toys and a check, nearly $10,000 all in all was delivered to Santa’s Workshop at Ft. Carson, Colorado. Santa’s Workshop provides a venue where qualified low-income Army families can choose toys for their children, wrap the gifts and take them home to their children from Santa. With so many soldiers deployed and so many young low ranking soldiers in the field, this program really helps to provide Christmas to kids whose families are split and in need.
On December 17, the team executed an awesome toy distribution for the needy children of Teller County. United States Marine Recruiters, local veterans, city officials, and Pro Promotions staff members along with volunteers brought Santa to Cripple Creek, Colorado where nearly 500 families received the full Christmas experience. One by one, children from 2 months through 19 years old sat on Santa’s lap, had photos taken and received gifts and candy. Backstage, Santa’s helpers scurried about for hours in an effort to deliver just the right gifts to each youngster.
“This operation was simply outstanding,” said Sgt. Shawn Enloe, a USMC Recruiter from Colorado Springs. “The civilians who ran this event executed the operation with precision. What a great feeling watching the children and knowing that we were part of letting them know that the Marine Corps and this group really cares about them.” Enloe added, “I also appreciated getting our guys out to see a different side of the Corps, and having the opportunity to show the public that side – the generous and caring side of the warrior.
It was one of the coolest things I have been involved with.” The following day, Pro Promotions staff delivered two large loads of toys to Eastern Colorado. The first went to the Pikes Peak Community Action organization in Calhan. This year, a huge giveaway of food, blankets and clothing now included lots of toys for the children of qualified families attending the annual Christmas giveaway at the El Paso County Fairgrounds.
The remaining 200 or so toys were delivered the Miami/Yoder Elementary School in Rush, Colorado. As the children left for winter vacation on Friday, December 19, they were surprised and elated to be handed a toy or two as they boarded their buses home.
“There is nothing sweeter or more gratifying for me than to see the results of all of the effort toward the Toys For Tots Program,” said Master Gunnery Sergeant Steve Martinez, Regional Recruiting instructor for USMC Recruiting headquarters in Denver. “I personally have a huge amount of respect for the bikers, vets and civilians whose persistence made this all come together. In particular, Pam and Jim Wear have exhibited exemplary dedication in seeing this mission through from start to finish.” Martinez added, “My Marines and I love volunteering our time and our proud to be part of Toys For Tots.”
After the final count, better than 3,000 kids in El Paso and Teller Counties had a better Christmas as a result of the combined efforts of the USMC Recruiters, and the local biker community. Isn’t it great to know what a difference that little teddy-bear bungeed to your sissy bar made in the final result?
Special thanks, much love and huge respect to everyone involved from start to finish. OOO – RAH! And Happy New Year!