Paul Goodwin displays the toy he selected to donate to the Salvation Army's Toys for Tots drive after concluding the motorcycle ride across town on Saturday.
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The roaring motorcycles and leather jackets may look intimidating, but the biker community in the city showed their heart by loading bikes full of toys to donate to underprivileged children.
More than 100 bikers hopped aboard their motorcycles and trekked across Thunder Bay to take part in the 30th annual Toys for Tots Ride in support of the Salvation Army on Saturday.
Major Rob Kerr, executive director of the Salvation Army, said the generosity of the bikers is admirable.
“Part of it is that these are men and women who have a very soft heart. They may look tough on the outside but they’re soft on the inside. What they’re doing is trying to help somebody else. I think it really goes a long way for them to come together as bikers of the community and do this and make a difference,” Kerr said.
“There are children out there who without the support just would not have toys this Christmas.”
The ride began at the Harley-Davidson dealership on Arthur Street just after 1 p.m. and then proceeded through the city, concluding at the Salvation Army building on Cumberland Street.
Motorcycle clubs that participated included the Harley Owners Group, Bondslave Motorcycle Club, Superior Riders, Ontario Northwest Retreads, Team Code 3, and Infidels MC.
It is this visibility of the large contingent of motorcycles traveling across the entire city that Kerr said helps give the kick off to the cause such an impact.
“Obviously the bikes get people’s attention,” he said. “When they see they’re following behind the Salvation Army van and it says Toys for Tots on the side it hopefully reminds other people that maybe they should be doing something too, and give a toy or two or make a donation that is going to help out somebody else’s Christmas.”
Many of the riders have participated in the event for years, such as 49-year-old Paul Goodwin who has been involved for the past 10 years and said he enjoys knowing he is helping to brighten a child’s Christmas.
“I’ve been doing this every year for a while,” Goodwin said. “It’s a good cause and something we should be doing.”
While Christmas is still a little more than three months away, Kerr emphasized that it is not too early to start donating, and that the campaign would prefer to receive donations earlier rather than at the last minute.
“The important thing to remember is that we’re giving out toys before Christmas,” Kerr explained, and added that toys can be donated at their Cumberland Street location, the church on Victoria Avenue, or at any of their thrift stores.
“When we’re getting toys on Christmas Eve it’s very hard for us to get those out to people, but when we get them ahead of time we can get them into the hands of the families and the children that really do need them.”
While he does not have any children of his own, Goodwin enjoys the process of selecting a toy for a child, and said that if it looks fun to him it should definitely be fun for kids.
“I buy the toy I like to give to the kids so I know they are going to enjoy it too,” he said.
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