Hundreds of motorcycles take to the streets for Toys for Tots

Sitting on the back of a Suzuki Boulevard in the parking lot of Walmart on West Kimberly Road, Dan Carney was getting ready for his first Toys for Tots Motorcycle Run.

Years ago, he’d seen the impact of the event. He’d been laid off, and his girlfriend at the time had two children.

“We didn’t have enough to give them anything,” Carney said, so the kids’ mother signed up for the Toys for Tots program and they got gifts that Christmas.

“Their faces lit up and their eyes lit up and it was just awesome,” Carney said.

So, on the back of Carney’s motorcycle Sunday was a new remote-controlled car. “Now that I’m a little better off I can give back.”

Carney was one of hundreds of people who turned out on a sunny Sunday afternoon for the 33rd annual Toys for Tots ride, sponsored by the ABATE of Iowa District 15 and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Organizers say more than 600 motorcycles showed up Sunday, according to the organizers. The motorcyclists came with all manner of toys strapped to their two wheelers — Moana dolls, Wonder Woman dolls, robots, soccer balls and basketballs, board games and fire trucks. One motorcycle even had a Huffy bicycle strapped to the back.

While many wore leather jackets, vests or chaps, some donned red Santa suits.

Roger Duncan wasn’t in a suit shortly before the ride began, but he wore a red Santa hat and grew a fluffy white beard for the occasion, a suggestion of his granddaughter, Bridget Duncan, of Rock Island, who was playing the role of the elf for their ride.

“It was her idea last year when we rode,” Roger said.

The Duncans were joined for the ride by other family members, including Vanessa Miller, of Bettendorf, who was spending her birthday on the ride.

“I work with special needs children so this one is kind of close to my heart,” Miller said. She said the family takes part in a number of charitable events, and that through this they want to “make sure every child has a toy for Christmas.”

This year’s grand marshal for the ride was U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who rode her Harley-Davidson to Davenport from her home in Red Oak, along with her husband, Gail, who had his own motorcycle.

Ernst, a veteran, is a motorcycle rider. She also hosts a political fundraiser each year featuring motorcycles.

“I brought Barbie dolls. My husband brought a car,” Ernst said.

The motorcyclists rode the streets of Davenport, ending at the parking lot of the former Hobby Lobby parking lot on Kimberly Road.

Organizers had hoped to draw 800 motorcycles. Still, Penny Hoker, who handles public relations for ABATE District 15, estimated that there were probably 1,200 people taking part, given many of the motorcycles had passengers. She also said that, in addition to toys, many of the riders made cash donations for the effort.

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