Story and Photo by Alan Dockery
Yeah, it sure was a chilly morning the first Saturday of December. But motorcycles love the cool air and bikers in the Hickory, NC, area love their toy run. This year more than 600 bikes rolled up to the Wizard Saloon for the 26th Annual Toy Run to benefit the Conover School. Organized by Mike Dyson, Wizard Saloon owner, this is the biggest toy run in our area and a great way to kick off the Christmas season. So many people showed up they had to park them across the tracks and in other lots nearby.
The Conover School Toy Run supports one of the state’s premier special education schools. It’s different from other toy runs because instead of bringing toys to a central collection point, teachers select specific toys based on each child’s wants, needs, and abilities. Bikers pay the tab through a charity managed by Mike.
This is a unique toy run and the coolest by far that I’ve been on in my many riding years. On the Conover School Toy Run, bikers see the kids they are helping. As we rode into the Newton-Conover High School parking lot the cheering kids and families lined the sidewalk. Leading the way was Arnold Kerley on his beautiful custom trike towing Santa (Wesley Moore) in a sleigh.
Folks gathered in the gym to see a great part of this toy run. What makes it so special for the kids, their families, and the bikers is what the kids give back to us, a heart-warming Christmas Show. Each year the children of the Conover School show their appreciation by putting on a Christmas pageant, singing and acting out songs of the season. This is such a touching show that even the most macho bikers could be seen wiping an occasional tear. After the singing, Santa handed out presents to the kids.
Every year the students do some little something to make the day extra special to us old bikers. This year they welcomed us to join them on the floor for the last song and dance. The excitement of the students and bikers charged the air with real Christmas Spirit in the gym that day. Also, the Christmas Tree in the middle of the show was decorated with ornaments made by the students for the bikers to take home. I left mine on the Wizard Saloon Christmas Tree.
“We held our 26th annual biker's toy run at Newton-Conover High School on December 3,” said Phyllis Pegram, Principal Conover School. “It was so exciting to see approximately 700 motorcycles with two people on most bikes. It was so emotional to see all these bikers coming to school for our children and to make sure they got to see Santa and receive a gift. It is so heart-warming to see everyone come out to support Conover School. It really puts everyone in the Christmas spirit to see all the bikers watching our special needs students perform a Christmas program for them.”
After the show, most of the riders returned to the Wizard Saloon for some chili and sandwiches. Then Mike and his staff gave away a bunch of cool door prizes and auctioned off some nice items.
“I really enjoyed the toy run this year since I slowed down and let the girls take over more,” Mike Dyson said. “I got to spend more time with old friends. It was great to talk with guys who helped start this years ago and have ridden with us many times. I’m usually too busy that day to do that.”
“I loved how they ended the show this year by letting bikers join the kids on the floor to sing and dance. Instead of turning left or right to the exits, bikers were smiling and laughing with the kids. This is always a great way to give the Christmas spirit to so many people.”