Written by Diana Olmstead
Photos by Robin Hudson, Nan Bridges, Jacob Hudson, Lisa CvC
On Saturday December 6th, 2014 riders from all across western Washington converged in Lacey, WA for the 37th Annual Olympia Toy Run that benefits the Salvation Army ‘Toy n’ Joy’ Shop!
The weather wasn’t bad, just a bit of light rain and drizzle off and on and it was actually quite warm by December standards. My buddy Dave and I live about an hour away from Lacey and we enjoyed the early morning ride in to South Sound Center, the staging location for the parade.
As we pulled into the Sears parking lot around 10am, we joined up with a steady stream of bikes all headed towards the gate to either make a cash donation or to show their toy donations and receive a wristband. The wristbands are given to help assist the Olympia Toy Run Coalition to get an accurate count of the number of bikes participating.
After we parked our bikes, it was time to have some fun! The Christmas spirit was emanating throughout the crowd of bikes and riders. It was an awesome sight to take in, row after row of bikes of all makes and models decked out in red bows, garland and packed with toys! Most bikes carried several toys; there were Barbie’s, remote control cars, board games, baby dolls, Tonka trucks, Lego’s, and even a few small bicycles and tricycles.
The riders themselves were also showing their Christmas spirit as they were bundled up in their leathers, Santa hats and festive holiday scarves. Everyone was in a cheerful, jovial state of mind. There were lots of smiles, plenty of bantering and loads of laughter!
Vendor row was hopping with activity. There was a wide variety of vendors on hand offering up something for just about anyone. There were booths selling patches, hot food and coffee, Harley merchandise, heated clothing, gear for your doggie, leather hair ties, and more. Several Toy Run sponsors also had booths: Northwest Harley-Davidson, 96.9 KAYO, the Quinault Beach Resort & Casino, Urban Custom Bikes and Bill Funk Allstate Insurance.
At 11am the Seattle Cossacks and the Tenino Motorcycle Drill Team performed. Anyone who has been riding any length of time has seen both of these stunt and drill teams perform many times before but what I couldn’t help but notice was how many people, kids and adults, were seeing the performances for the first time. Listening to the kids get so excited reminds me once again of what this event is all about – the kids.
Santa Joe Sullivan, the Olympia Toy Run Coordinator and one of the original 27 who started this event 37 years ago, was busy as can be. He walked around passing out candy canes or he sat on his Harley sleigh posing for pictures with lots of excited children, from tiny little tots to teenagers.
I ran into my not so little buddy Levi Campbell who has been attending and riding in the Olympia Toy Run since he was 8 years. Back in ’08 Levi rode with Santa sportin’ a matching miniature Santa suit. My how time flies, Levi was now a strapping 14 year old who was taller than me! The one thing that hadn’t changed was his big smile and his excitement of this awesome toy run day! When I saw him, I gave him a big hug and said “I’m so happy to see you!” He replied, “I wouldn’t miss it, it’s part of my Christmas tradition! We’re going to help a lot of kids this year. Look at how many bikes are here!”
His comments touched my heart. I couldn’t help but envision his future… I could see him in a few more years riding next to me on his own bike packed with toys. I realized that’s it’s not always about what we adults say but rather what we do that makes an impact on the younger generation.
After socializing with many more friends it was time to make my way to my bike. The parade was about to start in a matter of minutes. I donned my helmet with a big red bow on top, put on my red glasses, zipped up my coat, wrapped my Christmas scarf around my neck and climbed onto my bike which I had proudly decorated and packed with toys.
Santa was directly in front of me. His special passenger was his lovely wife, Susan. As they both slipped on their helmets and straddled Santa’s chromed out sleigh the excitement was building throughout the entire crowd! When the clock struck one Santa officially began the parade with a “round ‘em up” wave and the twist of his throttle! In unison, over 2000 motorcycles rumbled to life!
What a thrill it was as we made our way through downtown Olympia. Thousands of spectators lined the streets. Some stood, some sat in lawn chairs, some sat in the bed of pick trucks. I was blown away by the support of the community. Many of the spectators were holding signs that read “Merry Christmas!” and “Thank you!” Kids were literally bouncing up and down with pure delight and elation. The adults were snapping pictures and shooting video. The energy was contagious; as I rode I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning, I was grinning from ear to ear and waving nonstop to those that lined the streets.
The motorcycle only parade ended at Marathon Park on Deschutes Parkway. It was amazing to be standing at the park and still see and hear a steady stream of bikes winding their way through the city after we had parked our bikes.
The riders who participate in this community charity event are incredibly respectful, organized, and safe but above all – they are giving! As I watched the riders dismount their bikes and head towards the stage and donation trucks I knew it was a successful Toy Run by simply looking at the amount of toys they were carrying as they walked along the sidewalk. Most riders had a bag of toys, not just one or two, but many toys. They understood and supported the Olympia Toy Run’s motto “It’s all about the kids!”
The need this year was great and a large portion of the families who signed up for Christmas assistance through the Salvation Army ‘Toy n’ Joy’ Shop were military families.
I’m very proud to say that because of The Olympia Toy Run, no local child had to go without this Christmas. Within a matter of hours we raised $15,000 in cash donations and we donated 4,082 new toys valued at $61,230! Those are fantastic numbers! And because the Olympia Toy Run Coalition members are all volunteers and because the Toy Run has fantastic sponsors who cover the costs associated with putting together this amazing charity event, 100% of your donations went straight to the kids!
It is important that we acknowledge and publicly thank the 37th Annual Olympia Toy Run sponsors: Gold level – Northwest Harley-Davidson, Silver level – 96.9 KAYO/Oldies KGY 95.3, The Westside Tavern, Quinault Beach Resort & Casino, Quick Throttle Magazine, Bill Funk – Allstate Insurance and Urban Custom Bikes, Bronze level – D&F Custom Leathers, Chrome Horse Promotions and Northwest Guide Baits.
A special thank you goes out to the 523d Transportation Company from JBLM for bringing a truck and loading it with toy donations and to Island Johnny who provided riders with portable restrooms for the event.
We’d also like to thank and acknowledge the members of the Olympia Toy Run Coalition who volunteer and work year round to put this event together: Olympia Chapter – ABATE of WA, Mason Co Chapter – ABATE of WA, Alky Angels International, Descendants of 51, GoldWing Road Riders’ Association, GoldWing Touring Association, Olympia Light Riders, Society’s Deviants MC, South Sound H.O.G., Swantowne Pirates and Chrome Horse Promotions.
We can’t wait until next year, when we celebrate our 38th Annual Olympia Toy Run and 38 years of helping The Salvation Army help kids!
Until we meet again, “Have a Happy New Year and let the good times roll!”
Check out the Olympia Toy Run website www.olytoyrun.com and “The Olympia Toy Run” Facebook page for updates and final donation numbers (Toys and cash are still trickling in as of our print date).