Bear-bearing bikers blaze new path to Shriners’ Hospital – through Sellwood

Here’s why many of our motorcycle-riding folks from outer East Portland all headed west – with plush toys strapped to their steel horses, last Saturday morning …

Behind these thousands of riders are thousand of motorcycles, about to be ridden through Sellwood and up to “Pill Hill”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Seeing thousands of leather-clad bikers riding through downtown Sellwood on December 3 came as quite a shock to those who ween’t aware that the 2012 ABATE/Shriners Toy Run had chosen a new route to Marquam Hill this year.

“This is ABATE’s 32nd year of bringing toys to the children at the Shriners’ Hospital,” said Chaplain Mike Friend, one of the event’s organizers. “This is how bikers and motorcyclists kick off Christmas.”

Whether affiliated with A.B.A.T.E. of Oregon, Inc. – an organization that promotes motorcycle awareness, education, safety, and liberty, through community involvement and legislative action – or not, all are invited to participate in the annual ride.

Riders of motorcycles – of all makes and models – gather each year in support of the Portland Shiners’ Hospital for Children®.

Standing at the driver’s seat, volunteer Allison Laurenza keeps trying to find more room in which to stow incoming toys donated by the bikers.

As in past years, the rumble of Harleys and other heavy steel could be heard for blocks around the TriMet bus facility at SE 17th Avenue near SE Holgate Boulevard. With clear weather, participants came by the thousands.

A full-sized TriMet bus was packed, front to back, with new toys, destined for the Portland Shriners’ Hospital for Children.

Barry Bede, chairman of the board, Shriners’ Hospital for Children in Portland takes another bag of toys to the bus for a trip up Marquam Hill to the hospital.

The toys collected for the children of the Shriners’ Hospital are loved year-round to provide comfort for the kids and their siblings that may attend appointment.  “So many toys are donated, there’s a room set aside within the hospital called the ‘ABATE Toy Room’,” confided Friend.

When spotted this year, amid hundreds of motorcycles, Barry Bede – Chairman of the Board of Shiners’ Hospital for Children® in Portland – looked a little like Santa, with a big bag of toys in his hand.

“Hip Santa” Mike Torgerson mounts his “Las Vegas trike”, as the thousands of riders get ready to move out.

Yes, it’s Santa – riding a decked-out bike, leading the Shriners’ Hospital van.

“These people have great open hearts,” Bede smiled, as he handed off toys to be placed in the bus. “It takes about a month and a half to sort through all the toys. And, this event also raises thousands of dollars for the hospital. We can’t do it by ourselves; we need help from others. All these kind people demonstrate their concern by helping out.”

A little after noon, the bikers headed out – with Santa Claus leading the Shriners’ bus – heading not north to Powell, but this year south toward Sellwood, and eventually over the Sellwood Bridge on their way up to the Shriners Children’s Hospital on Marquam Hill.

Over the Sellwood Bridge they go, on their way to deliver toys and joy to kids at the Shriners Children’s Hospital on Marquam Hill.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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