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September 09. 2012 8:36PM

Bikers rally to collect gifts for The Salvation Army

Motorcyclists bearing gifts arrived at the New Hampshire Union Leader on Sunday, Sept. 9, for the 30th annual Toy Run for The Salvation Army. Organized by the New Hampshire Motorcyclists' Rights Organization, this event attracted more than 4,000 motorcyclists bringing donations for needy children of New Hampshire. Saint Anselm student Becca Cronin accepts a donation from Russell Lampron, of Loudon. (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Santa's helpers got a head start on the Christmas season at the 30th annual Toy Run for The Salvation Army on Sunday.

“It's everybody coming to the rescue,” said Steven Tarbox, with the American Legion Riders.

More than 1,000 motorcyclists joined the ride that started at the Department of Safety in Concord and headed down to the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News offices in Manchester. The event is a yearly tradition for the New Hampshire Motorcyclist' Rights Organization, which helps bring out the many clubs and riders for the event. It is also the kickoff event for the Union Leader Santa Fund efforts to help The Salvation Army. Each rider brings at least one toy to donate to The Salvation Army.

Mark James and Barbara Putnam of Antrim came with a Harley-Davidson loaded with toys, pulling a trailer that was also full.

“It's nice to be part of something where the end result is so rewarding,” Putnam said.

James collects toys for the ride throughout the year, beginning with the day after the last ride.

“From the day we end up here at the Toy Drive, we start collecting again,” he said.

This year he brought dozens of stuffed animals strapped to the bike with twine, games and other toys in the trailer as wells as two bicycles and a big wheel. James said he was once given a toy as a child and wants to help give back.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas was on hand to thank the riders for their generosity.

“It's absolutely incredible seeing this many people care that much for children,” Gatsas said. “It's a great day when you can get this many people to be thankful and giving.”

Along with the riders clad in black leather, mostly on Harley's, Salvation Army Lt. Herb Rader made the trek on his Yamaha FJR 1300.

“I love the bike,” he said. “I've been riding since I was 11.”

Rader said the event always makes a big difference in the lives of children.

“This is huge,” he said.

His wife, Lt. Miriam Rader, said The Salvation Army helped more than 900 families last Christmas, in large part thanks to the Union Leader Santa Fund. The Salvation Army in Manchester is seeing a greater number of children and families who need help, she said.

“It goes up every year,” she said. “We fed 140 kids every day this week at our supper club.”

Shannon Sullivan, Union Leader community relations manager, said the ride gets the whole Santa Fund effort a big push in the right direction.

“It's a really important start to the holiday season,” she said.

While most people know about the Union Leader Santa Fund for The Salvation Army giving children toys, socks and underwear for Christmas, the fund also gives their parents a grocery store gift card, so the family can enjoy a special Christmas meal.

The fund also gives meals to seniors and the infirm, as wells as providing camp opportunities for inner-city children and other programs.


How to donate

Santa Fund donations can be made by completing the online form by clicking "Donate" below or send a check to:

c/o New Hampshire Union Leader
P.O. Box 9555
Manchester, NH 03108

You can also drop off the printed form in our newspaper and a donation in the Santa Fund box at the Union Leader, 100 William Loeb Drive in Manchester from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. We will also have a donation drop box at the Intown Manchester Holiday Market on Thursday, November 29 and every Thursday in December.

Share a holiday greeting

With your donation, the Union Leader will publish a short holiday message in the newspaper. Just write it up exactly as you would have it appear, printing clearly, and mail it along with your donation. If you prefer to donate online, follow the link on the page following the transaction to submit a Christmas message.

For more information, please contact Shannon Sullivan, Union Leader Community Relations Manager, at (603) 206-7833 or ssullivan@unionleader.com

The Union Leader Santa Fund is a community tradition that has supported the Salvation Army for more than 50 years. The Santa Fund was first established at the Post Office Fruit in Manchester after a chance 1959 meeting between the Salvation Army major and the then-editor of the Union Leader.

In its first year, the Santa Fund brought in $1,000 to support the Salvation Armys Christmas effort. Since then, the Santa Fund has raised nearly $6.8 million, thanks to the generosity of the community and local businesses. Santa Fund dollars continue to provide warm clothing, meals and toys during the holidays, as well as support Kids Caf, summer camps and other critical programs throughout the year. Last year's drive brought in over $240,000 thanks to the generosity of local businesses and residents, bringing the lifetime total to nearly $6.8 million.

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