By Wally Wersching
On Saturday, December 17th, the Windjammers Motorcycle Club held their 28th Annual Toy Run for the Cleveland County Children’s Homes. There was a real air of anticipation. Everyone in the area looks forward to the Windjammers Toy Run. It’s a time to meet old friends, and to make new ones, too.
I anxiously watched the weather for the week before the run. The temps on Saturday were starting out in the mid 20’s – COLD. There was even a slight misty drizzle coming down. Luckily it didn’t freeze when it hit the pavement. In Charlotte, there were hundreds of accidents due to icy roads. To the west in Rutherford County, it was raining. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were extremely blessed. God was watching over the Toy Run this year.
The Windjammer’s toy run experience consists of breakfast at the clubhouse starting at 7:30AM with lots of coffee, donuts, homemade sausage, and liver mush biscuits. The “Gathering Place” is the Cleveland Mall in Shelby. The run goes to one of the Cleveland County Children’s Homes – Aaron’s House west of Shelby. Afterwards, it’s back to the clubhouse for free BBQ and fixin’s.
Each year’s toy run starts with the cooking of the BBQ. This year “Hangman” stayed up all night to cook the delicious pork. I stopped by the clubhouse at about 10:30AM. There was a small group of Windjammers preparing for the day’s events. After one dressed in a Santa Suit, he was ready to head to the Mall. His daughter wanted to ride behind him but didn’t have any cold weather gear. She foraged through his pick-up truck, and came up with his bibbed insulated overalls that he wears for work, and his work jacket. She looked a little comical because she was a slightly built young lady flopping around in the large clothes. She didn’t care because she was going to ride with her dad in the Toy Run.
About 11:30AM, the bikes, and military trucks start congregating at the Cleveland Mall. As it got closer to 1:00 PM, the large parking lot slowly filled with bikers. It’s always a lot of fun. Many old friends were there shaking hands, and hugging each other in friendly greetings. I saw some old friends that I only see during Toy Runs. There were many clubs, and Biker Ministries represented at the run. Everyone brought toys strapped to their bikes. Some were in costume, and others had their bikes decorated in the Christmas spirit.
I met the photographer from one of the local papers. He was taking pictures, and writing down names for his publication. It’s good to see that the papers will inform people about the run. It has come a long way since the first run in 1989 when no local paper mentioned anything about the run.
At exactly 1:00PM, the command to fire-‘em-up went out, and the parade started heading toward the Court Square in Shelby with a police escort. Once it starts, there are motorcycles as far as the eye can see, and the roar is almost deafening as they pass. I left a few minutes before the run pulled out of the mall to get to the home before they do so I could take pictures as they ride in.
When I arrived at the home, I talked with Miss Margie, the director of the Children’s Homes, and gave her a DVD with pictures of all 27 previous toy runs. She uses the DVD’s to share the experience with other people on Facebook.
When the police escort sirens sounded, and the bikes arrived, it was a very festive event. Some of the people who brought a gift into the home had tears in their eyes as they left. Everybody had a smile on their face especially when Miss Margie thanked them as they walked in. It’s always a pleasure to be part of any toy run, especially the Windjammers Toy Run, because we get to meet some of the children. This year every biker got a “Thank You” poem, and a candy-cane from the children. They seem to really appreciate what we do. That’s why I haven’t missed one since the first one on December 17, 1989. I plan on going to all the future ones, too.
After the toys were dropped off, some of the bikers quickly left to get an early start on the BBQ at the club house but most continued to mingle on the front lawn as though they didn’t want it to end.
Preparation for next year’s toy run starts the day after this year’s run. The club members work all year so that the next toy run will be the best ever. It’s all worth it to know that there will be toys for the children on Christmas Day.
Ever since 1992, the Windjammers Toy Runs have given over $500,000 to the Children’s Homes of Cleveland County, which has been used to give the children a more normal life. This year’s run was a relatively good one, considering the weather, with an estimated 200 bikes. There have been years when the weather was warm and sunny with almost 1,000 bikes. The weather has the most influence on how many bikes are at the toy run. We all pray for good weather each year.
I’ll be back again next year no matter what the weather. Mark your calendar for the last weekend before Christmas!