By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- More than 800 motorcycles roared their way through downtown Tulsa on Sunday afternoon. It was all part of the annual Salvation Army Motorcycle Toy Run. For 29 years now, the Salvation Army's been holding a motorcycle toy run to benefit needy families. One of the surprising things was how many first-time riders throttled their engines this year. And, they say they came out for one reason.
The line stretched for more than half-a-mile down Riverside Drive. It's a tradition spanning decades that gets bigger and louder every year.
"We enjoy riding bikes. We enjoy getting outside, getting to meet people. It's a good charity and it's just a good time," said Rhonda Byrd.
Rhonda Byrd says Sunday was her first ever Toy Run Parade. She says the bad economy prompted her to get involved.
"Helping kids because there's gonna be a lot of kids without Christmas this year. We enjoy it. Anyway, we can give back. We enjoy doing it and it's for a good cause," said Rhonda Byrd.
There's no sleigh, but there are still plenty of toys. All tied down for a nine mile jog down Riverside Drive.
"For the bikers, it's just fun. But, we really enjoy doing something that helps the kids that are less fortunate than we all are," said Jonathan Livingston.
This year's Toy Run was 30% bigger than last year. Jonathan Livingston is a Toy Run veteran. He says it helps shed some stereotypes about bikers.
"We, we wear the black leather and promote the image, but most of us are just teddy bears," said Jonathan Livingston.
Salvation Army workers say the demand this year is especially great. They say 15,000 children could go without a present this Christmas.
"We've got a 10% increase over this time last year of people seeking assistance," said Brad Borror with Tulsa's Salvation Army.
When it was all done, the scene looked like a bizarre Santa's workshop. Giant boxes, filled to the brim with toys, all to spread a little Christmas cheer.
The Salvation Army gave out T-shirts to the first 400 bikers. But, because of the surprise turnout, half of the participants didn't get one. They say the feeling they got dropping off the toys was a reward in itself.
All of the toys collected on Sunday will be distributed to needy families in two weeks.