Digger Dave/Pix by Digger & Liane LaSweet
Founded in 1954 Sunshine Acresis the brain child of Rev. James and Vera Dingman, affectionately known as “Uncle Jim and Aunt Vera. They spent their entire lives helping the poor, the homeless, the children of migrant families, and the children of parents who were incarcerated. In 1953 after 17 years of praying for a location to care for homeless children it came to be. They mortgaged their house and with the help of the Mesa Arizona Optimist Club put a down payment on 125 acres of desert that had a few rundown buildings, no electricity and a broken well pump.
The day they took possession Uncle James and Aunt Vera decided “We will never solicit money, nor board, nor brick and that no child will ever be turned away for financial reasons”. Being deeply religious they knew their faith would see them thru the hard times. Sunshine Acresdoes not receive any government aid and to this day it is completely donor funded. There are many famous people in sports and the entertainment industry along with corporations who shall remain anonymous, who donate money and set up fundraisers on their own to make sure Sunshine Acres is able to continue the care they have been providing for 57 years. Having been home to over 1600 children Sunshine Acres is truly a “Miracle In The Desert”.
Having been raised in Mesa, I know in the beginning that Sunshine Acreswas out in the middle of nowhere, more than likely on the edge of the cotton fields and citrus groves that were abundant in that era. (I think I just dated myself) Civilization has creeped up over the years but they are pretty much still out in the boonies. The orange groves and cotton fields have been replaced by tract homes, the ditches, canals and wells are all gone and the dirt roads are now paved, but Sunshine Acres still sits on that same 125 acres kind of like an “Island” to itself.
Somehow I’ve managed to miss this run for the last couple of years due to covering other runs, well I’m not going to miss another one! This is one of those runs that you’re not in a hurry to get to the end stop party. It was a beautiful clear day as I rolled into the Monasteryin east Mesa, no it’s not what you think, it’s a bar/restaurant, and for once it was a place that was ready for us with coffee and whatever else you might want. As I was meandering around taking pictures one question kept coming up. “Where’s the registration?” Ummmm there isn’t any registration, you’re on your own as to what you want to contribute, a toy for the kids, cash, or both. It wasn’t billed as a toy run yet everybody brought something, in fact we managed to fill a 7×12 trailer and a couple of pickup beds also!
Susan Kipp is the person who got this run rolling, Rick Finnigan who is the lead singer for the band Hawg Wildwas very instrumental in the organizing part, and who generously donated the bands time for the end of run party. The Monastery donated the start location, Henry Guerra donated the services of the What The Hell Barout in Apache Jct. where a raffle was held, food & beverages served and of course foot stompin’ music! The place was packed, overflowing to an impromptu outside patio, the parking lot was jammed packed with motorcycles parked 3 deep.
We all rolled out of the Monastery for a short ride to Sunshine Acres and it was an impressive sight, a long row of bikes with toys bungee’d to their bikes. Here’s where the fun began, the kids were out watching as we rolled in, and kept rolling in. They were excited for a couple of reasons. One, they were going to have a gift (or 3) under the Christmas tree, and two, they were about to get a ride on a motorcycle! Riders lined up and the ladies started “loading” (for lack of a better word) the kids on the passenger seat. There were customs, choppers, baggers, trikes and crotch rockets ready to take their passenger on about a half mile loop around the grounds. The excitement on the kid’s faces as they rode out was contagious. As soon as one child dismounted another got on, kudos to the ladies who did an excellent job of keeping things running smooth as silk, and thank you to all the riders who provided their back seat. The kids didn’t just ride once, they got back in line and rode again, and again and again.
Susan Kipp who is part of the school system here tied this in with her schools toy drive. She also enlisted the help of numerous schools, great job Susan!! Joe Cordeiro representing the Desert Eagles MC donated $150 cash and the Victory Riders of Phoenix another $250, plus the donation jar at What The Hell was filling up nicely. Rob Forti and the students from Gilbert High School donated 93 wrapped gifts and about 40 un- wrapped gifts, Augusta Ranch Elementaryand the students there donated around 50 more toys and numerous gift cards. There were also numerous gift cards from the Desert Ridge High School Booster Club! Throw in the toys brought by the riders and it adds up to one heck of a good Christmas for the kids!
In Susan’s words “ The gifts donated and providing rides for the kids is what this ride is all about for me, this year and every other year in the past and the future! Throwing a huge after ride party is my way of saying thank you to all the bikers who participate!”
Thanks Sunshine Acres, Susan Kipp, Rick Finnigan, The Monastery& What The Hell Bar and everyone else who helped make this run a huge success, we all had great fun and are proud to be able to contribute to a great cause!
If you would like info on how to help the children please visit: www.sunshineacres.org
Ride Safe~~Ride Free