Bikers rev up to donate gifts to underprivileged kids
Published: December 5, 2005 | 2913th good news item since 2003
Gleaming in the wet sunshine Sunday morning, motorcycles carrying 919 registered do-gooders snaked around the Hadji Shrine Temple for more than a mile.
The tattooed, black leather-clad and silver-studded motorcyclists traveled 14.8 miles along Nine Mile Road, Pine Forest Road and U.S. 29 for a greater reason than to feel the wind ruffle their hair.
Because of this crowd, many needy children will have new toys for Christmas.
The riders paid $10 each and brought at least one unwrapped Christmas gift to the 10th annual Toy Run conducted by the Gulf Coast chapter of the American Bikers Aimed Toward Education.
“They ought to have a good Christmas like the privileged kids,” said Pace resident Gus Argeris, sitting in front of his wife, Pamela, on their burnt-orange Harley-Davidson.
Pamela Argeris gripped a plastic bag crammed with seven toys: four Barbie dolls, one space mission set, one set of classic Disney board books and one Barbie writing kit.
Big Brothers Big Sisters, Christian Motorcycle Association, Catholic Social Services and the Shriners will distribute the presents. Proceeds from the registration fee will go to gifts for other needy children as well.
ABATE is a motorcycle rights group that focuses on motorcycle safety and awareness.
“We’re all family-oriented,” ABATE President Bob Jordan said as bikes coasted by.
Bill Tollis, chaplain of Maranatha Riders, the local chapter of Christian Motorcyclists Association, said he is gratified when he personally hands presents to needy children whose fathers are in prison.
“I show up at the door in my biker stuff and say, ‘This is from Daddy. Merry Christmas,’ ” Tollis said.
Shelley Johnson bounced from biker to biker in conversation. Christmas bell earrings jangling, Johnson was excited about the high turnout compared with last year’s event, which drew about 300 bikers under a cold, rainy sky.
Johnson rides a pink Harley-Davidson that she calls “Beast.”
“We have Christian motorcycle clubs, and we have outlaw motorcycle clubs here,” she said. “When you come, it’s a brotherhood, even for the girls.”