MARSHALL - Bikers from all around came to join the Toys 4 Tots Motorcycle Fun Run on Saturday in hopes of getting on the nice list as they brought toys for Santa.
More than 320 motorcycles made up this year's 21st annual run that raised a little more than $10,000 in donations.
The motorcyclists began in Amiret, then traveled to Marshall and had lunch at the Hitching Post on Saturday. From there, they took two different routes that eventually took them to Wabasso, where they gathered for supper.
Photo by Samantha Downing
The 21st annual Toys 4 Tots Fun Run included more than 320 motorcycles this year.
Proceeds are distributed to six different organizations: Heart to Heart in Marshall, Golden K Kiwanis in Pipestone, Murray County Christmas Project in Slayton, Community Christmas Baskets in Worthington, Lincoln County Christmas Baskets and Toys in Ivanhoe and Christmas Toys, Baskets and Clothing in Luverne. However, the toys that are brought to the Hitching Post all go to Heart to Heart.
"It's crazy how much money is raised and the difference we make. The best part is seeing the children's faces when we deliver Heart to Heart boxes at Christmas time. The feeling of jitters and butterflies doesn't go away even though I've been doing this for 11 years," said Jeff Arends, the former president of the organization.
Each rider brings a toy with them on the leg of the journey from Amiret to the Hitching Post in Marshall. After they arrive in Marshall, bikers drop off the toy they brought and any donations. The Hitching Post provides a meal for the hundreds of participants.
"Any profit that the owner would make, he donates right back to Heart to Heart. The amount has been about $1,000 each year. We are so thankful for their contribution," Arends said. "Each year the donations we make are between $10,000 and $15,000. Also, the Steve Lenz Memorial Run donates $1,000. They have a much smaller run, and it is all the way in Lismore, but they do it every year."
This is a year of transition for the Toys 4 Tots Fun Run. Joe and Denise Birman are now switching roles with Jeff and Jane Arends. The Birmans have taken charge, while the Arends are going back to committee member status.
"If I can make it through this year, I can do anything," Denise Birman said.
"It's been crazy, but the Arends have helped out a lot. I wasn't sure if I would be able to ride through the run, but my husband told me if I didn't, he would sell the bike," she said.
This year, the Birmans have been working hard to make the Toys 4 Tots run more successful.
"One thing we have started is a Facebook page. It's called Toys Tots, and we have been posting updates so everyone can know what is going on. We encourage people to follow it because it makes communication much easier," Denise Birman said.
Although the money is divided up locally, people do come from all over to participate. Chris Folk came all the way from Kansas City, Mo., just to take part in the run.
"I came up here on Friday and I will leave Sunday," Folk said. "I just came to be a part of the motorcycle run. I'm engaged to Gina Bakker who lives in Marshall. Her parents invited me to come up for the weekend since they were doing this, so I did."
"I had a head wind the whole way here so I'm hoping it's a tail wind on the way back. I wasn't on top of things, otherwise the toy cars I bought would've been all the way from Kansas," Folk said.
All of the toys will be wrapped on Dec. 9 in Marshall and distributed on the 14th for Heart to Heart.
"It is amazing to be a part of all of this," Denise Birman said.