Leather-clad bikers show kindness for Shriner’s kids

It’s amazing to see hundreds of tough-looking, occasionally-tattooed hombres on motorcycles, amassing for an outing – all of them carrying teddy bears. But plush toys aren’t the only thing these bikers bring each year to hospitalized kids …

Past event leader Geoff White and Michael Friend, coordinator of the 28th Annual Shriners ABATE Toy Run “direct traffic”, and welcome bikers to the event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
“We laugh at the snow! Ha, ha, ha! Welcome riders,” calls out Michael Friend, coordinator of the 28th Annual Shriners ABATE Toy Run, through a megaphone.

He’s welcoming riders of motorbikes – ranging from huge Harley-Davidson motorcycles to Vespa motor scooters – as they pull into the TriMet maintenance lot on SE 17th Avenue in Brooklyn on December 1st.

Riders of more than 1,000 motorcycles of all descriptions braved the sleet and cold on December 1st to ride this year’s Toy Run.

Although it’s less than an hour before their scheduled departure time, the lot isn’t quite as full as years in the past. “They’re worried about icy roads,” comments Friend. “But look at them come in, now that they see that the weather is holding.”

As inbound two-wheeled traffic streams into the staging area, Friend comments to us, “We already have about a thousand bikes here. It’s going to be a good ride up to the Shriner’s Hospital today.”

This is how many area bikers kick off their Christmas season, Friend tells us. “We’ve been doing this to benefit the children up at the hospital for 28 years. It’s something we look forward to.”

The best part for him, Friend confides, is seeing all kinds of motorbike riders come together for a cause. “This is the one time when you’ll see hard-core Harley riders next to motor-scooter riders, side by side. We all get together and do something positive for the community.”

Al Kadar Shrine member, and TriMet driver, Dannye Adamson here gets a hand, stocking his bus with toys, from Aura Barkley and the turning away Cameron Dahl.

Helping Friend this day is his buddy, and past event coordinator, Geoff White. “My first toy run was 21 years ago, and I haven’t missed one yet. The first year I did it, there were forty of us. It’s really grown.”

The best part for White is “seeing how the kids respond to the gifts and love we show them. It is the one time you’ll see hard-core bikers with tears of joy in their eyes.”

By the time they were ready to ride, bikes crowded the TriMet lot along S.E. 17th Avenue.

Bikers raise big bucks
None of the bikers there looks more “hard-core” than Edd Dahl, especially when he’s astride his ’05 Heritage Softtail Harley.

“It’s more than toys,” Dahl elaborates. “Last year, our group, ABATE of Oregon, raised and spent over $35,000 buying wheelchairs and adaptive living tools for the kids. Until we started raising money, some kids waited up to six years for a power wheelchair.”

Dahl adds that cynics might say the bikers’ generosity is a publicity stunt to help improve their image. “Doing this for nearly 30 years, it’s pretty clear we do this because we love the kids.”

Their biggest fundraiser is a raffle. This year, Dahl says, the grand prize is a brand new Harley-Davidson.

Bus full of teddies
Some bikers have toys strapped to their bikes; others give their toys to Shriner and TriMet driver Dannye Adamson to pack in his bus, for the trip up “Pill Hill”.

“Isn’t it wonderful?” remarks Adamson, “I get to drive this bus, loaded with toys, up to the hospital. I’m kind of sad this will be my last Toy Run as a TriMet driver, I’m retiring soon. To see the happiness their kindness brings gives you a great feeling.”

And the motorcyclists are off on their mission of mercy and joy, as they join the annual Toy Run from S.E. 17th in Brooklyn to Shriner’s Children’s Hospital on Marquam Hill.

About noon, the gate opens – and the roar of a thousand motorcycles fills the air, as these bad-ass bikers ride off, northbound to Powell on S.E. 17th, on their annual mission of kindness and generosity.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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