The Coast News Group
Riders from Los Angeles set out for a 1-mile scenic ride. The Toys for Tots benefit ride drew about 200 riders this year. Photo by Promise Yee

Toys for Tots motorcycle rally celebrates 25 years of giving

VISTA — The sight is unexpected and heartwarming. Each year hundreds of motorcycle riders gather to donate teddy bears and toys to San Diego County children in need. On Nov. 17, riders gathered again for the 25th year.

This year the annual GWRRA (Gold Wing Road Riders Association) Chapter CA1-N Toys for Tots benefit ride relocated from Oceanside Harbor to North County House of Motorcycles on Hacienda Drive. Relocation to a private business site allowed vendors to be present and event activities to be held in one location.

Nathan Merritt, 3, of Perris, Calif., checks out Santa’s beard. Toys for Tots drives will collect holiday toys through Dec. 18. Photo by Promise Yee

Previously riders would leave from the harbor and ride together to Casino Pauma. Toys would be strapped onto bikes or carried by car, and a meal and raffle drawing would take place at the casino after the ride.

This year riders could drop off their toy donations upon arrival, check out vendors and bikes, take off in small groups for a ride through the back country or along the coast, and return for raffle drawings, food and camaraderie.

“The city was getting higher and higher to insure here (at the harbor),” Richard Freund, GWRRA CA1-N member, said.

“We need money to go to the kids, not incidentals,” Ray Sykes, GWRRA CA1-N member, said.

This year the benefit ride drew about 200 riders.

“It looks like it’s going to work out pretty well here,” Len Foley, the group’s chapter director, said.

Event organizer Karen Parent said sponsors helped make the benefit ride a success. North County House of Motorcycles provided the venue and half a dozen local businesses stepped up to donate raffle prizes.

“My favorite part was to make the call and hear ‘I want to be a part of it,’” Parent said.

U.S. Marine Corps reservists were on hand to collect toys and will later distribute them. Toys are collected at Toys for Tots drives through Dec. 18 and then delivered to children in time for Christmas.