Christmas came early once again this year thanks to members and guests of the Okanagan Motorcycle Riders Association.
Over 100 participants dressed in their best leather — aboard a variety of polished two and three-wheelers — arrived at Rotary Park Sunday morning bearing gifts and anxious to begin the annual toy run through the south valley from Penticton to Summerland to Oliver and back again.
Throughout the morning the bags of stuffed animals, games and other items piled higher as riders continued to arrive to have a quick breakfast before the rumbling, en masse departure along Lakeshore Drive.
“We’re here to collect some toys for the needy at Christmas, it’s all for the kids,” said Hal Leader, his long, grey braided ponytail hanging from beneath his helmet. “If not for the kids we’ll have no pensions … but seriously it’s to give something to those who might not otherwise have something at that very special time of year.
“I also really like the camaraderie because there are people I haven’t seen since the last toy run. We all travel in our circles and this time of year here we are.”
The association which prides itself with presenting members of the motorcycle community in a positive light has staged the run locally for almost a quarter century.
Similar events are also held in other parts of the Okanagan Valley including the previous week in Vernon and this weekend’s ride in Kelowna.
“We’re from Vernon and we thought we’d come out and check out the toy run and bring some toys and support the local bikers,” said Tina Peacock, who was travelling with her father Trevor Peacock.
“This definitely a good cause, the toys go to the children who are needy and that’s an obvious good thing. It’s good community relations and it’s a way to give back to the community.”
The pair are avid riders and always enjoy meeting new people at the events to share the road with.
Red Young has been involved with organizing the Penticton-area ride for many years and is always easy to pick out of the crowd — he’s the one in the Santa suit.
“The (Society of) Saint Vincent de Paul has a Christmas hamper program every year and so everything that comes in, the money and the toys, goes to them,” said Young, who is also president of the association. “We’re just happy that this gives them a start to the year, and it’s fun.”