By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – Early morning rain kept some bikers away from Sunday's 17th annual Tri-County Toy Run, but many still delivered donations of toys and cash for underprivileged and other distressed children to the starting point at American Legion Post 133 in Temple. They then went back home after a free breakfast for all donors.
About 720 bikers braved the weather to form a river of cycles to Copperas Cove's Ogletree Gap Park, where the gifts, brought by truck, were distributed to 19 area agencies that help children, organizing committee chair Gail Duncan said.
They got a free afternoon chili supper prepared by the family of Chad Wessels, a volunteer firefighter from Briggs who died in the line of duty in 2005. His family continues to provide the meal in his honor, his widow, Melinda Wessels, said. They made the chili while others contributed cornbread.
Duncan said organizers collected 49 boxes of toys worth about $15,000 and almost $9,000 in cash for agencies to buy their own. Two motorcycle clubs, the Chaos Ridaz and the Legion Riders, challenged each other to a contest to jack up their contributions.
"We were disappointed that the weather interfered with participation, but we feel we still did a lot," Duncan said. "We'd rather have people stay home if they're not comfortable riding in bad weather than have something happen on the run."
Food and beverage hosts at Ogletree Gap had been on the job since 8:30 a.m. and said it had been raining there, too, but precipitation stopped and a chilly fog had settled on the surrounding hills by the time the riders arrived about 1:30 p.m.
"We surprised some poachers inside the park when we came to set up," said retired Lt. Col. Dennis Ng, president of Warriors of the Way Chapter 525 in Killeen, the local chapter of the nationwide Christian Motorcyclists Association. "The game wardens and police came and got them."
The Warriors customarily provide coffee, cocoa, water, lemonade and other nonalcoholic drinks for biker get-togethers, including the Republic of Texas Rally in Austin.
William Hall, director of operations for Families in Crisis, waiting to receive a share of toys, said the need for contributions has never been greater.
"Our shelters in Temple and Killeen are full," he said. "There are a number of reasons, but the worst stressor on families right now is probably financial difficulty brought on by the recession. It's a bad time to be homeless."
He said one bright spot was a recent grant that enabled the agency to place 30 families in housing.
Other motorcycle clubs in the ride included the Cen-Tex Riders Association, the Brotherhood of Bikers, Full Circle Aikido, Area T of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, Chisholm Trail Riding Club, Steel Samurai, the Five Hills Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse and Neu Era.
The police departments of Temple, Belton, Nolanville, Harker Heights, Killeen, Copperas Cove, Lampasas and Rosebud also participated.
Sponsors included American Legion Post 133, Hieronymus Printing, Killeen Power Sports, Kay's Motorcycle Mania, Texas Motor Sports, the city of Copperas Cove, Downing Transportation, Danhill Containers, Cen-Tex Sanitation, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 32, Killeen Citizens Police Academy Alumni, Fort Hood and Horny Toad Harley-Davidson dealerships, Mi Tierra Restaurant and Boston's Restaurant & Sports Bar.
The toy run is a sanctioned event of the American Motorcycle Association.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7557.