36th annual motorcycle Toy Run kick-starts Santa Fund driveBy DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 10. 2018 9:24AM
MANCHESTER — The holiday season got a kick-start Sunday when about 600 motorcycles rumbled into town loaded with toys for children in need.
The bikers rode together from Concord to Manchester in the 36th annual Toy Run, which delivered a stockpile of donated toys for the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army.
“It is really essential to our toy drive. We need about 10,000 toys to serve the families that we do at Christmas, so this kick starts it for us,” said Maj. Armida Harper of the Salvation Army Manchester Corps.
Harper said it would take a while to count up all the toys, but it was a great start.
The New Hampshire Motorcyclists’ Rights Organization conducts the Toy Run, which has grown to become the unofficial start of the Santa Fund. The annual holiday fund provides thousands of families each holiday season with gifts for children who would otherwise go without. This year will be the 59th for the Union Leader Santa Fund for The Salvation Army, which last year raised nearly $200,000.
“We love kicking off the Santa Fund season with the New Hampshire Motorcyclists’ Rights Organization,” said Katie McQuaid, director of marketing at the New Hampshire Union Leader. “These bikers have huge hearts and we are overwhelmed by their generosity.”
The convoy was led by a police motorcycle escort as it rolled in to the Union Leader around 1:30 p.m. Hundreds of leather-clad bikers lined up in the parking lot to drop off the various toys they carried on their bikes.
Many of the donors brought more than one gift, which volunteers bagged and placed in a storage container that was about half-full before the last of the group filed through.
“It’s a great cause,” April Johnstone of Hooksett said after dropping off a Barbie and set of Legos.
Participants stuck around for a cookout at which Harper addressed the crowd and thanked everybody for their generosity. Harper said this is her third Toy Run since arriving in Manchester, and the tradition continues to impress her.
“It’s fun to see people that you might perceive as tough or unapproachable showing their big hearts, coming and bringing toys for kids that really need it. The joy they show is a lot of fun to watch,” Harper said.