By Michael Stewart / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
If Santa rode a Harley, picking him out among the motorcycle riders that roared through downtown Meridian Saturday might have been difficult given that many of the bikers were sporting white beards.
Even if the jolly old elf didn't personally boot a kickstand up for the ride, he had plenty of helpers who did. An estimated 200 riders participated in the 2nd Annual Bikers United For Children Toy Ride that began at the Hilton Garden Inn on U.S. Highway 11 and ended at College Park United Methodist Church across from MSU Meridian.
Riders donated toys that will be distributed by The Wesley House and Cans for Kids.
"No child should wake up Christmas morning to an empty tree with no presents underneath it," event organizer Bob Anderson said. "That's why we do this."
By 11:30 a.m. motorcyclists were lined up outside the Hilton Garden Inn for the ride that began at 1 p.m. Toys were stacked on the back of a flatbed truck that passersby had dropped off.
Anderson was optimistic that the motorcyclists would deliver a couple thousands toys. NAS Meridian alone donated 704 toys.
"The Navy base did a super job," Anderson said. "We really appreciate them."
Several motorcycle groups got together to form the toy ride, pooling their resources and members to ensure the event was successful. Riders from throughout the region participated, Anderson said.
Others helped as well. Members of the College Park United Methodist church fed the motorcyclists after the ride and Hilton Garden Inn provided space for event organizers to meet.
The members felt the toy ride was more important than ever this year.
"With the economy the way it is Wesley House has more inquiries from those needing help than they have ever had," rider Steve Reetz said. "They do a lot of good and we are glad we can help."
Next Saturday, Chunky River H.O.G. Chapter 1273 will sponsor another toy ride to benefit the Salvation Army.
Registration will begin at 11 a.m at Chunky River Harley Davidson on South Frontage Road. The event is open to all riders, who are asked to bring an unwrapped toy. For information about the ride, contact Chuck Knabusch at 601-282-0064.
Toy rides are popular with motorcyclists for a few reasons, Anderson said.
"The rides give bikers a chance to get together and do what we are passionate about — riding," Anderson said. "Being able to help others out makes it that much better."