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Group helps to kick-start Toys for Tots

BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE / THE FREE LANCE–STAR

A group of bikers revved up the annual Toys for Tots campaign, which has been off to a sluggish start.

Three chapters of the Roughneck Riders Motorcycle Club held their annual toy run Saturday, riding 50 miles to pick up toys and bring them to the Toys for Tots warehouse in Fredericksburg.

The Roughneck Riders is a public service club, made up of men and women who serve in the military, fire and rescue departments and law enforcement.

For the past three years, the D.C. chapter has sponsored a toy run, where riders bring an unwrapped toy—and then the horde stops at Toys for Tots collection sites to pick up toys and bring them to the warehouse.

“For us, it’s about giving back to the community that we serve and protect,” said Marc “Mule” Grayson, president of the D.C. Chapter and a Stafford County resident.

This year, the motorcycle ride was appreciated even more, as Toys for Tots organizers slashed the transportation budget.

Last year, the effort spent more than $20,000 to get toys from collection spots, said Wilma Vaughn, ommunity relations officer for Marine Corps Base Quantico.

“That’s $20,000 we could have spent on toys,” she said.

But ditching the pickup service also means giving up some control over the timing of getting toys.

And many of the social service agencies that rely on the toys need those presents pronto.

Two agencies have already picked up 129 toys, Vaughn said. That’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the 150,000 toys given out last year by the Quantico campaign.

But with donations so slow, those 129 toys nearly depleted the warehouse’s offerings.

Saturday’s run helped boost the toy collection, as bikers unloaded a trailer filled with cardboard boxes brimming with board games, baby dolls, Big Wheels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines and electronic games.

Volunteers sorted those toys by age and gender. Each social service agency gives Toys for Tots an exact number of boys and girls and their ages, so they can be matched with appropriate presents.

Organizers expect to give away at least 150,000 toys this year, but they haven’t yet received the official numbers from some of the larger agencies.

Still, they know those agencies will need toys—and most will need them early in the season.

So they are hoping that more donors will take the Roughriders’ example and bring toys to the warehouse sooner rather than later.

Organizers also emphasize a need for toys that appeal to infants and to youngsters ages 11 to 14: board games, sports balls, skateboards, craft kits, scrapbooking sets and beauty supplies.

Amy Umble: 540/735-1973

aumble@freelancestar.com

 

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