Written by Diana Olmstead
The Olympia Toy Run began in 1977 with 27 men, who loved riding motorcycles and wanted to make a difference within their community. They were hard working, blue collar men with families and kids of their own. They were successful enough to be grateful for what they had, but not so successful that they couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have nothing.
They knew that there were far too many children within their local communities that were going without the basics on a daily basis and it bothered them. As the holidays were fast approaching, the thought of a child waking up Christmas morning without a gift to open was more than they could bear and to them it simply wasn’t right. So those 27 big hearted bikers decided to do something about it – they decided to create a motorcycle toy run.
The first thing they did was choose a reputable local charity organization which led them to The Salvation Army, an organization dedicated to helping the less fortunate. Little did they know that their event would go on to become one of the biggest and longest running toy runs in the entire nation.
Since the beginning, the Olympia Toy Run has always taken place on the first Saturday in December. For many riders and spectators the toy run has become as much of a holiday tradition as decorating the Christmas tree. Today an estimated 15,000-20,000 festively decorated motorcycles packed with cash & toys take part in the Olympia Toy Run festivities and parade. Why do so many support this event? Because we are in tough economic times, families are struggling, and The Salvation Army needs our help! The Salvation Army “Toy n’ Joy” Shop provides much needed holiday toy assistance to local low income families with children of all ages. The very gift that a rider donates may be the only gift that a child will receive for Christmas.
Quick Throttle Magazine has supported the Olympia Toy Run for many years. We donate all advertising for the event, and more importantly we donate our time. We get behind the Olympia Toy Run because 100% of the proceeds and donations go directly to the Salvation Army’s “Toy ’n’ Joy” Shop. But the main reason we get behind and support the Olympia Toy Run is because we want every child to experience the laughter and joy that happens when they unwrap a gift from Santa.
Many of the riders who attend and donate toys and cash are parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. I often hear riders say that at some point their own lives were affected by financial struggles whether as adults or when they were children. They can truly relate to the families they’re helping; they know that often financial setbacks are just temporary. All it takes is an illness, divorce, accident, injury, death of a parent, or the loss of a job to create a hardship on a family. When any one of those things happen during the holidays, the heartache is almost unbearable on a family. So if our donations can take a little pressure off the parents and make a young child squeal with joy on Christmas Day, then we’ve achieved our goal and felt the true meaning of the holiday spirit.
The Olympia Toy Run begins at 10am when riders from all over Washington converge in Lacey at the South Sound Center’s Sears parking lot. This is where every type of street legal bike imaginable parks and lines up for the parade.
During the motorcycle staging, the Sears parking lot is filled with a flurry of activity. There are performances by the Tenino Motorcycle Drill Team and the Seattle Cossacks, as well as several vendor booths on hand selling merchandise, treats, hot cocoa and coffee. At 1pm Santa Joe Sullivan gives the signal that the parade is about to begin. With a loud roar, bikes exit the parking lot and ride through the streets of downtown Olympia to Marathon Park to drop off their toy donations. The parade itself is an awesome sight. All of the streets are closed to car traffic and hundreds of families line the streets to check out the decorated bikes and to show their support for the Olympia Toy Run, an event that benefits their local community.
Santa Joe (one of the original 27!) wants to remind riders of the Olympia Toy Run Coalition’s mission, which is “It’s all about the kids.” The Olympia Toy Run is a charity event. Please do not show up empty handed. Bring a toy or make a $10 cash donation.
Sponsors are an absolutely vital component in keeping this huge toy run going and growing year after year. The following 2013 Olympia Toy Run Sponsors deserve a huge thank you – Northwest H-D, 96.9 KAYO & KGY AM 1240, the Westside Tavern, Quick Throttle Magazine, Quinault Beach Resort & Casino, Chrome Horse Promotions, Urban Custom Bikes, Allstate Insurance – Bill Funk, D&F Custom Leathers, Northwest Guide Baits, Seattle Cossacks and the Tenino Drill Team.
Riders don’t forget to purchase your 36th Annual Olympia Toy Run t-shirt, hoodie & run pin. This year’s logo was designed by Santa himself, making it extra special! T-Shirts $20, Hoodies $40, Pins $5. They are available for purchase now at Northwest H-D! They will also be available at the Olympia Toy Run Booth in the Sears Parking lot while supplies last.
Important Olympia Toy Run Safety Info :
When you pull into the South Sound Center, Sears parking lot please follow the direction of the parking lot attendants. For safety reasons we ask that riders do not park along the route and attempt to merge into the massive pack of rolling bikes leaving South Sound Mall. In order to keep the flow of motorcycle traffic moving smoothly, we ask all riders to please be respectful should parade traffic need to stop momentarily for emergency vehicles to pass by. The rolling speed of the parade route is 20-25mph. For the safety of the children who line the parade route and for the safety of the riders, please do not toss candy from your motorcycle. Check out the Olympia Toy Run website www.olytoyrun.com and “The Olympia Toy Run” Facebook page periodically for updates and info!
We’ll see everyone on Saturday, December 7th! Let’s make this a very festive and successful year – deck out yourself and your bike with all things Christmas and come packed with toys!