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Andrea Olivier, center, of Raymond, and Pam Paige, left, of Fremont, arrive to deliver teddy bears for the Motorcycle Toy Run at the New Hampshire Union Leader parking lot in Manchester Sunday afternoon. The event is the kickoff for the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

Toy Run jump-starts Santa Fund tradition


MANCHESTER — Upward of 1,000 motorcycle riders set the Salvation Army on the road to making Christmas happier for disadvantaged youngsters Sunday, bringing toys from Concord to Manchester for distribution during the holiday season.
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The 31st annual Toy Run, organized by the New Hampshire Motorcyclists' Rights Organization (NHMRO), brings cyclists from around the state to ride for some 25 miles bearing donations of toys.

It is the kickoff event for the New Hampshire Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army.
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"It's for the kids, anything for the kids," said rider Michael Townsend of Belmont.

NHMRO leaders said the event drew motorcyclists who wanted to give back to the community.

"This year is a strong year," said Candy Alexander, one of the event's organizers. "It was due to a lot of pushing on Facebook, pushing our members and those who are not members to support the kids; it's all about the kids."
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Riders said the procession of hundreds of motorcycles was well-received by people along the route.

"Riding right behind Santa Claus, it was so awesome to see the children watch the motorcycles coming, and then they spot Santa Claus and their faces just light up," Alexander said.
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Sherman Packard, a Londonderry resident and lawmaker who helped found the ride more than three decades ago, said he was impressed by the number of riders who turned out Sunday, despite the threatening skies that prevailed when the ride began.
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"What you're doing today and what you've done for those needy children who might be having a hard time, you're going to be putting a smile on their faces for Christmas time," Packard said. "If that doesn't bring a tear to your eye, nothing will."
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Salvation Army Lt. Herb Rader, who heads the organization's Manchester Corps, thanked the motorcyclists for their contribution to getting the annual Santa Fund drive off to a strong start.

"You rock," Rader said.
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The thousands of toys donated through the Toy Run help the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army extend its resources and provide more assistance to needy residents during the holiday season and beyond.
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After 31 years of helping, the riders say they look forward to continuing the annual event.

"We love doing it for the kids who don't have anything; it's been a tough three years for a lot of people," said Barbara Charette of Manchester. "If we can give a little bit back and make some child happy, it's awesome."
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wsmith@unionleader.com
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