TEMPLE — The walls inside American Legion Post 133 were lined with dolls, race cars, footballs and other toys for children of all ages as its parking lot quickly filled with decorated motorcycles.
An estimated 1,500 motorcyclists, escorted by local law enforcement, were blessed with good weather as they left the post at noon Sunday for a 40-mile ride to Ogletree Gap Park in Copperas Cove during the 20th Tri-County Toy Run.
“This is the season where riders want to do something,” said retired Master Sgt. Jerry Caballero, chairman of the run. “We don’t have a good reputation. We’re just regular people, but our hobby is motorcycles.”
Caballero became involved with the ride as a way to give back to the community, especially children since they are the ones who often are unable to help themselves and don’t know why their parents can’t provide them a plentiful Christmas.
“We start out the day with no money, and we end the day with no money,” Caballero said. “We give it all away.”
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Rod Nash, of Nolanville, a member of In County Motorcycle Club, comes to the toy run annually.
“It’s a great cause and benefits the needy children within the three-county area,” he said. “I’m a businessman, so the community comes to my business and then I (donate during the ride) and pay it forward.”
With the near-deafening roar of engines revving up, Nash said his favorite part is meeting with motorcyclists he hasn’t seen all year and seeing the parade of motorcycles going down the road.
At least a dozen different biker organizations were represented in the ride, providing toys and Walmart gift cards to 19 area charities that were selected based on their minimal government funding, Caballero said.
Although Ryan Pearson, of Copperas Cove, attended the Bell County Toy Run in Harker Heights last month, it was his first time riding in the Tri-County run.
“It’s all about the kids,” Pearson said. “I have four kids and a grandchild, and I like helping folks.”
The best part of participating is getting together with other riders and supporting the community. “It’s great seeing a bunch of folks turn out to support a good cause,” he said.
Items and funds donated during the ride will help provide a Christmas for about 8,400 underprivileged, neglected and forgotten children in Bell, Coryell, and Lampasas counties, Caballero said. “There’s quite a few kids in the area that are going to have a better Christmas than what their parents could (provide them).”
When the 18-wheeler pulled out it was loaded with 87 large boxes of toys and 21 bicycles, Commander John Potts of American Legion Post 133 in Temple said.
Post members started bringing toys and donations in July. They also raised money through bingo games and a monthly raffle.
In a bidding war among the different motorcycle clubs, $16,000 was raised Sunday at the post, Potts said. “We have a great bunch of people.”