Hog heaven in Olympia

More than 15,000 bikers collect toys for the needy.

by Mary Ann Strickler –

Bikers gather for the 32nd annual Toy Run in Olympia, Wash. [Photo by Mary Ann Strickler]

An estimated 12-15,000 bikers—motorcyclists—from across Washington and adjoining states came out on Dec. 5 for the Olympia Toy Run Coalition’s 32nd annual Toy Run, which benefits The Salvation Army’s Olympia Corps. By the end of the day, a record number of toys had been collected, along with $11,000 in cash and checks from the Toy Run and $1,798 from red kettles at the event—with more donations anticipated.

Led by Joe Sullivan—“Santa Joe”—the coalition’s founder, the riders met at South Sound Center in Lacey and began their parade through the streets of Olympia with hundreds of spectators lining the parade route.

The jaunt ended at Marathon Park on Capitol Lake, where the riders met volunteers who packed a 26-foot truck and several trailers with toys for the Salvation Army’s Toy ‘n’ Joy program.

The first Olympia Toy Run was held in 1977 with 27 riders collecting about 50 toys. The riders slowly increased until, in 2002, they jumped to 6,800. Final numbers for this year’s count showed 6,191 toys collected—valued at $144,075—and 15,000-plus motorcyclists. In 2008, approximately $100,000 worth of toys—over 7,000—were given along with donations of $17,620 from the coalition and $1,350 collected from red kettles at the lake.

Carole Apple, Olympia Advisory Board member, has attended the Toy Run for the past three years.

“My first year riding my Yamaha V-Star was in 2007. It snowed buckets and I wondered why I was crazy enough to ride in a snow storm just to bring toys to kids,” Apple said. “I wouldn’t miss this bike run for anything. My children love seeing all the bikers and it’s such a great toy drive for needy kids.”

This year the riders enjoyed clear, blue skies—a welcome blessing for December in the Pacific Northwest.

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