Mike Purdy, shown above starting his engine during last year's Toy's for Tots Motorcycle Run, has announced that the local fundraiser has come to an end after 25 years.
After 25 years of raising funds for regional Christmas charities and other charitable organizations, the annual Toys for Tots motorcycle run has come to an end.
Originally formed as an effort to bring joy at Christmas time to less advantaged children in the Dorchester, Sackville and Port Elgin areas, the event grew to include the Amherst and Moncton areas. In 1997 it was granted charitable organization status.
Event founder and president of its board of directors, Mike Purdy said Tuesday that at a recent meeting the board regretfully made the decision not to continue with the annual event.
“When we started the toy run, my wife and I were 27 years old. I often get credit for the whole scene but the other organizers, their spouses, kids, grandkids, parents, friends, co-workers and many others have been supportive in so many ways over the years. It was always a group effort,” Purdy said.
Each year an organizing committee comprised of more than a dozen volunteers helped the board of directors both before and during the event. In addition, over the years some 20 – 30 persons, along with members of the local Scouts Canada and Girl Guide troops, would pitch in to help on the day of the run.
Vice-president Don Ells noted that the Tantramar
‘Toys for Tots’ Motorcycle Run has been a popular annual fall event in the Tantramar region since 1989. In September 2013 organizers celebrated their 25th annual toy run.
“We originally set out to make sure kids in the area had a good Christmas. If we made a difference in the life of one child, it was all worth it. I think we’ve accomplished that and much more in the past 25 years,” Ells said.
Many of the events’ supporters, motorcycle enthusiasts, corporate sponsors and individuals from all over Canada faithfully returned year after year to help continue what had become a much-anticipated event on the motorcycle world calendar, benefiting not only the families it supported but also the communities in which the toy run has been held, Purdy said.
He noted that last week board members came together to discuss the future of the toy run.
“After some discussion it was decided that the event should come to an end. And while there were mixed emotions around the table, the consensus was that the event has always been very successful especially considering the hurdles that had to be overcome each year to make it work. More and more local red tape, liability issues, competition with other motorcycle events backed by government money and the ability to attract new participants has taken a toll on the organizers, many who have been with the organization for over 20 years,” he said.
Reminiscing about the early years of the run, Purdy recalled that the first one started at Todd Lowerison’s Esso in Aulac and ended at the Dorchester Recreation Centre.
“For many years, Todd Lowerison hosted the starting point of the event. Over the years, we had many different ending points, including my yard - where we parked about 50 bikes on my lawn, the Dorchester Consolidated School, for many years George’s Fabulous Roadhouse, Sassy’s in St. Joseph and the Golden Rail in Sackville. But with the growing numbers of motorcycles, we felt for safety purposes that we needed to change the routing to get all of the bikes off of the Trans Canada Highway. We eventually moved our starting point to Johnny Long’s Esso and McDonalds Restaurant in Sackville. In 2006, we moved the ending point to the Tantramar Civic Centre and stayed there, with the exception of 2012 when we ended at the Sackville Curling Club,” Purdy said.
He also noted that for 22 of the past 25 years, run organizers had also made a trip on their motorcycles to Westmorland Institution in Dorchester, meeting with the inmate population who has been the single largest financial supporter over the years.
The organizers believe they are going out ‘at the top of their game’, he said, adding that they hope the people who have continually supported the run over the years will continue to support the less advantaged through donations to the many charitable organizations throughout the region.
“It was hard to make the decision to let it go. This has been such an emotional ride for many of us, but we know the time has come for us to take a break. The biker community has come through for humanity yet again and we have all made many lifelong friends, helped many families and created memories that will last a lifetime. It was a great run in many different ways,” Purdy said.