CRESTVIEW — Families First has $3,000 and some 250 toys that can make needy Hub City children’s Christmases more cheerful after the 14th annual Run for the Toys.
More than 200 bikers rode into the Crestview Walmart parking lot just before 9:30 a.m., paid a $10 registration fee, and included at least one toy to donate toward Families First, a foster care network.
A couple of Crestview Police Department units escorted the long trail of bikers to their location at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5450 building on James Lee Boulevard. The VFW provided lunch for the bikers, who participated in raffles with proceeds benefiting the purchase of more toys.
Carrie Lawson, of Families First Network, said the event collected some $3,000 that will help purchase more toys.
“We honestly couldn’t do this without the support of local businesses,” event organizer Ken Payne said, referring to donated gift certificates, gift cards and other raffle items that netted considerable amounts.
The charitable event also aimed to remove a perceived stigma from bikers, Ken Henniger, a former event organizer and participant, said.
“Bikers participate in more charitable runs than anything,” he said. “They should actually be looked up to, not down at.”
Crestview police Chief Tony Taylor, a long-time biker, agreed.
“Bikers are not what people envision them to be,” Taylor said. “We’re doctors, lawyers, cops and a lot of the people, especially out here, are veterans. We all love riding and we love giving back to the community.”
Ray Doyle, a retired Air Force veteran and American Legion Riders member, said he supports many local charitable causes.
“I enjoy coming to these events; we get to support veterans and (needy) kids,” Doyle said, adding that he spends much of his free time volunteering at area VA clinics. “It’s one of the nice things about being retired — you can find more time to ride.”
Bobby Pruette, an AmVets Post 35 member, brought his grandson, Lucas Reeves, 8, along for the ride. Like his grandfather, Lucas said he enjoys riding and giving to a worthy cause.
“I think it’s great to give because some kids don’t have any toys,” he said.