Two stunning records, both in number of attendees and funds raised, were set this past weekend when the Prince Rupert Harley Riders suited up for the 34th annual Toy Run on Saturday.
As construction continued on Fraser Street, bikers from all over the region gathered at their new, temporary meeting place in front of Northwest Community College, close to the Salvation Army, which is one of the beneficiaries of their goodwill and generosity.
And that generosity equated to $15,000 for the Kaien Anti-Poverty Society (KAPS), $15,000 for the North Coast Health Improvement Society and a record estimated 900 families, or 2,800 – 2,900 people, helped with food and toys for this Christmas season through the Prince Rupert Salvation Army.
Those numbers blow 2014 out of the water, when 1,100 people were assisted through the Salvation Army’s Christmas Hamper program, helped in part by the Toy Run, and 55 riders showed up to take part.
This year, they almost doubled that.
An astounding 102 bikers gathered in Rupert, which made for quite the scene in what was an otherwise quiet day for the quiet downtown area at lunchtime on Saturday.
But the Toy Run has always been about more than the numbers.
“I want to say again how much I respect you all, how much I love you all and I’m so grateful for all that you do to help us, because we help others,” Capt. Gary Sheils of the Salvation Army said to the group before they left for their first stop on their Poker run at the Port Edward volunteer fire department.
“100 – wow, isn’t that awesome. I was just thinking of the first toy run – over 2,000 years ago, when there was only three. And they didn’t ride Harleys, they rode camels. But they were called wise men and there’s a saying that wise men still seek Him.”
President of the Rupert Harley Riders, Chris Rose, was commended for selling out raffle tickets for a motorcycle giveaway that still had people inquiring of their availability long after they were all gone.
Those funds will go to KAPS and the Health Improvement Society.
“[The Harley Riders] work so hard on this and [Chris] has worked all-year long. I know because I’ve walked along beside him lots of times and he’s really put his heart and soul into it,” said Capt. Sheils.
Next year, the captain says he’ll ride along with the bikers, part of his farewell to the Salvation Army.
“Next year, I’ll ride with them. I’ll be retiring shortly after that, about six months after that, so I figured I’d ride for my last one and I’ll keep something special in store for them,” he said.