AMIRET - For 20 years, they've been helping to give needy children a merry Christmas. And participants in the Toys for Tots Motorcycle Fun Run on Saturday said that mission was still important to them.
"It's for a good cause," said Doug and Betty Dandurand, as they waited for the ride to start.
They said the cause and the prospect of a good ride with friends brought them out as first-timers to the Toys for Tots event.
Photo by Deb Gau
Toys for Tots committee chairpeople Jeff and Jane Arends showed emotion when presented with a plaque in honor of their work.
In the time since the first ride was organized in 1992, the Toys for Tots Run has become a big contributor to Lyon County Heart to Heart's Christmas toy drive, and to programs in Murray and Lincoln counties, Luverne and Worthington.
Jeff Arends, one of the co-chairpeople of the ride's organizing committee, said attendance for the anniversary ride was down from last year, at 360 registered riders. However, he said toys and donations were still comparable to what was raised last year. He estimated toy and cash donations at about $12,000, including contributions from businesses, community members and groups, and proceeds from a live auction.
"We've got real good people out there," Arends said.
Motorcycles crowded the streets around the Roaring Lyons Clubhouse in Amiret on Saturday morning, as ride participants registered and planned which of the ride's two routes they would take. Many of the parked bikes had teddy bears or board games strapped to the seats. Later, the line of motorcycles would rumble into Marshall to drop off the donated toys, with not one but two Santa Clauses leading the way.
Ride participants said there were things about the Toys for Tots Run that brought them back year after year. Dick and Margaret Bakker said they have taken part in the ride for several years.
"It's a very good cause, and it's a lot of fun," Dick Bakker said.
Margaret Bakker said the social side of the ride helps make it fun.
"You get to know people on the ride, and run into friends you haven't seen in a while," she said. "And when you ride into town and see all the motorcycles," she said, it gives you a good feeling.
However, Saturday's ride was also bittersweet for Jeff and Jane Arends, who have led the Toys for Tots event's organizing committee for the past 10 years. Jeff Arends announced he and Jane would be stepping down as chairpeople this year. Arends later said there are a couple of different people who have expressed an interest in becoming the next committee chairs, but retiring from the position was still an emotional prospect.
"This has been 10 years in the making for us," Arends said of Saturday's run. He thanked community sponsors and ride participants for giving generously.
"My big thing is to help out the kids, and needy families at Christmastime. That's what it's all about for me," he said.
Craig Rund, a longtime participant in the Toys for Tots ride, presented the Arends with a plaque as a sign of appreciation for the work they've done for the ride.
"Without them, we wouldn't be where we are," Rund said.