MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The second annual Toys for Tots Motorcycle Poker Run for the Morongo Basin area took place Dec. 10 with more than 250 riders leaving the starting point at Hutchins Motor Sports store in Yucca Valley, Calif.
More than 300 toys and $1,300 were donated by participants, along with a $2,500 check from the Cactus Bar in Twentynine Palms, Calif., said Maj. Mark D. Bodde, chairman of the Toys for Tots Advisory Committee, Reserve Support Unit.
The ride commenced at 10 a.m. after an address from Brig. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, Combat Center’s commanding general, who is a member of the Toys for Tots Advisory Board at Headquarters Marine Corps. Stone welcomed more than 400 people to the event, gave thanks for the community’s support and gave background information on Toys for Tots.
“It’s not so much the toy, but the message of hope the toy represents,” said Stone.
Throughout the nearly two hour ride to the end point at Luckie Park in Twentynine Palms, five designated stops were arranged for riders to collect a card for the poker aspect of the event. Hutchins gave away two leather jackets, a pair of motorcycle glasses and four $25 gift certificates to the best and worst hands in the game, said Delissa Gardner, parts manager at Hutchins Motor Sports.
The Twentynine Palms Chamber of Commerce awarded participants for the best show bike, the best rat bike and the best painted bike. The best show bike was given to the best looking bike, whereas the best rat bike award was given to the bike that looked the worst but still operated.
The rider who traveled the furthest to participate was also recognized and given a prize. That award was presented to a rider from Florida, said Bodde.
A ticket raffle was also held, giving away a total of 50 prizes, including a $600 necklace and gift certificates varying from $25 to $100 to restaurants and resorts in the Southern California area.
There was also a barbecue prepared by Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel Men’s Ministry and music provided by local radio station Z107.7.
Marines from Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School volunteered their time to help set up the event as well, said Bodde.
Hutchins Motor Sports contacted the area’s Toys for Tots office to organize the event last year.
“We wanted to find a way to benefit the community’s less fortunate children,” said Gardner.
“The Toys for Tots program is a great way to reach out to the ones who aren’t lucky enough to have a Christmas.”
More than 200 riders participated the first year and there wasn’t as much local support to provide as many giveaways as this year, said Bodde.
“This year we had a lot more riders and support from businesses in the community,” he said. “Last year we were out there struggling to cook a barbecue for hundreds of people on our own little grills. This year we were thankful for Joshua Springs Men’s Ministry for bringing their big grills and barbecue talents.”
The first motorcycle run in support of the Toys for Tots campaign was held Dec. 13, 1978, in Chicago by the owners of the bike shop named Fantasy Choppers. The first run had only one motorcycle, but over the past 27 years, the run has grown to more than 40,000 riders and opened the doors for shops all over the nation to start their own run in support of Toys for Tots, according to Chicagoland Toys for Tots official Web site.