In late November through December an annual biker tradition replicates itself across America,
touching the lives of almost every biker that rides. Motorcycle clubs and independent bikers gather by the thousands for the singular purpose of giving toys and charity to kids and their families during the holidays. This simple tradition termed a “Toy Run” dates back decades and serves as an annual reminder of how deep of a role charity plays in the biker lifestyle.
Tens of Thousands of California Bikers Participate in Toy Runs
In every city and town from Weed to San Diego, tens of thousands of bikers will participate in a Toy Run that benefits needy children. Although an exhaustive list isn’t feasible because
California has the biggest biker population in the country, consider a few examples:
- In Sacramento, the Capital of the Golden State, the Modified Motorcycle Association held its 40th annual Toys for Tots ride. Thousands attended the run benefiting the largest Toys for Tots Foundation in the state. (1)
- The 33rd annual Bakersfield Toy Run and Food Drive happens December 11th. 5,000 motorcycles will ride to Kern County Fairgrounds to donate to the biggest Salvation Army toy run in the entire country. The event regularly raises more than $30,000, 3,000 toys and more than 2,000 pounds of food. (2)
- In Los Angeles, HARLEY-DAVIDSON of GLENDALE and ABATE Local #1 are hosting the 29th annual L.A. Toy Run benefiting the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which helps homeless children. Thousands are expected to attend. The reality of this immense ritual of charity is evident throughout California.
It’s a National Biker Tradition
Indeed, Toy Runs have a similar history nationwide. And if listing every toy run in California is not feasible, listing every toy run nationally would be a near impossibility. There are Toy Runs in every single state. On the last weekend in November, thousands of bikers participated in the 34th Toys for Tots Motorcycle Run in Louisville, Kentucky to make sure needy children receive Christmas gifts. (3) On December 3rd, thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts delivered toys to patients at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver, just as they have for 31 years. (4)
The scale and contributions of bikers cannot be over-stated. Some Toy Runs are on a truly epic scale. On the same day in Miami, tens of thousands of bikers gathered for the 29th annual Toys in the Sun Run. The South Florida President’s Council event sees more than 30,000 bikers taking part annually, benefiting the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation. CBS News Miami reports, “The Toys in the Sun Run, so far, has raised $16 million.” (5)
Toy Runs Are Genuine Charity, Not A Smokescreens For Criminal Activity
Sadly, the motivations of biker charity are sometimes brought into question by authorities that refuse to acknowledge anything but a one-sided stereotype. There are prejudicial sources that actually contend that bikers participate in Toy Runs as a smokescreen for criminal activity and an attempt at positive PR. Even in the face of incontrovertible evidence and history, some seek to de-legitimize even altruistic and constitutionally protected expressive conduct.
Police magazine contends that motorcycle “employ high-dollar attorneys and public relations fronts to deceive the national media and public into believing that they’re just good old boys who ride motorcycles as a hobby and don’t mean to hurt anyone.
Each year, they and other 1% outlaw clubs conduct highly publicized toy runs to benefit disadvantaged children. Don’t be fooled; they’re still outlaw 1%ers and members of a criminal gang.” (6)
Some police refuse to acknowledge that Toy Runs are a living and breathing example of bikers refuting a negative stereotype through action. Do toy drives really sound like something a gang would do? Have you ever seen a street gang toy drive? I’d guess no. I’ve never seen a Crack Dealers for Tots Foundation either. The point is that biker culture is deeply committed to charity and community. Raising millions of dollars, toys and food for the needy during the holidays is driven by a sense of duty and altruism.
The Toy Run should do a lot to buck the old stereotypes of mean, grizzled bikers, if anybody still believes those in 2016. “All of those people are by and large some of the most thoughtful, kind, giving people you could ever hope to run across,” Bakersfield event organizer Don Oldaker said.
“These are not people who have a lot of money; they’re not fabulously wealthy, but they still give their time and the little extra money they have,” says Oldaker. (7)
Can someone please explain how bikers raising millions of dollars for needy families across America is a smokescreen for criminal gangs and an attempt to dupe the media? It’s an absurd claim. Raising millions of dollars to look good? If these organizations were truly gangs wouldn’t they be raising the money for themselves as opposed to a good cause? How can this be the official position of those that are intended to protect and serve our interests?
Bikers and motorcycle clubs have organized and participated in Toy Runs for decades. The motivation is the sense of duty towards community that is ingrained into the biker lifestyle. It also speaks to the sense of protection towards children that exists in almost every biker and club member. Children are truly innocent.
Gift from the Toy Store: $100
Gas for the bike: $10
Smiles on the faces of children as Santa leads a pack of motorcycles carrying toys: Priceless.
1 KCRA 3 News, Nov.27, 2016. https://www.kcra.com/article/thousands-attend-sacramento-annual-toy-run/8369607
2 bakersfield.com, Dec.6, 2016. https://www.bakersfield.com/toys-to-the-world-thanks-to-bikers/article_fac666fbcbe0-5af9-aac7-721765d72ab2.html
3 WDRB News, Nov.23, 2016. https://www.wdrb.com/story/33784015/34th-toys-for-tots-motorcycle-run-happening-onsunday
4 The Denver Channel, Dec.4, 2016. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/front-range/denver/motorcycle-toy-runbrings-holiday-cheer-to-childrens-hospital-colorado
5 CBSMiami.com, Dec.4, 2016. https://miami.cbslocal.com/2016/12/04/bikers-ride-for-kids-cause-during-toys-in-thesun-run/
6 Police Magazine, “Hells Angels: Taking away their toys.”, March 8, 2011, https://www.policemag.com/blog/gangs/story/2011/03/no-toy-run.aspx
7 see Supra Note 2.