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September 08. 2013 9:41PM

Toy Run jump-starts Santa Fund tradition


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)


St. Anselm College senior and volunteer Becca Cronin, right, takes a teddy bear from Karan Currier of Loudon as part of the Motorcycle Toy Run for the Union Leader Santa Fund for the Salvation Army Sunday at the newspaper in Manchester. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)


Motorcyclists Ilona and Walt Hammond of Weare bring toys as part of the Motorcycle Toy Run, which started in Concord and ended 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)


Motorcyclist Kristine Wolf of Derry arrives with toys as part of 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)

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.

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.

"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."

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.

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.

"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."

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.

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.

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."

wsmith@unionleader.com


How to donate

Santa Fund donations can be made by completing the online form by clicking "Donate" below or send a check to:

THE SANTA FUND
c/o New Hampshire Union Leader
P.O. Box 9555
Manchester, NH 03108

You can also drop off the printed form in our newspaper and a donation in the Santa Fund box at the Union Leader, 100 William Loeb Drive in Manchester from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. We will also have a donation drop box at the Intown Manchester Holiday Market on Thursday, November 29 and every Thursday in December.

Share a holiday greeting

With your donation, the Union Leader will publish a short holiday message in the newspaper. Just write it up exactly as you would have it appear, printing clearly, and mail it along with your donation. If you prefer to donate online, follow the link on the page following the transaction to submit a Christmas message.



For more information, please contact Shannon Sullivan, Union Leader Community Relations Manager, at (603) 206-7833 or ssullivan@unionleader.com

The Union Leader Santa Fund is a community tradition that has supported the Salvation Army for more than 50 years. The Santa Fund was first established at the Post Office Fruit in Manchester after a chance 1959 meeting between the Salvation Army major and the then-editor of the Union Leader.

In its first year, the Santa Fund brought in $1,000 to support the Salvation Armys Christmas effort. Since then, the Santa Fund has raised nearly $6.8 million, thanks to the generosity of the community and local businesses. Santa Fund dollars continue to provide warm clothing, meals and toys during the holidays, as well as support Kids Caf, summer camps and other critical programs throughout the year. Last year's drive brought in over $240,000 thanks to the generosity of local businesses and residents, bringing the lifetime total to nearly $6.8 million.

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