Mele Kalikimaka: Military riders participate in Toys For Tots run
December 16, 2008
WAIKIKI, Hawaii - More than 6,000 motorcycles of all makes and sizes thundered through Waikiki during the 34th Annual Street Bikers United Hawaii Toy Run Parade benefiting the Marine Corps Reserves Toys For Tots, Dec. 7.
Among the riders were hundreds of veterans from every conflict dating back to World War II, along with active duty and reserve Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and, of course, Marines.
Many riders came out with their clubs, to enjoy the fellowship of the wheel and the opportunity to ride down Waikiki through all the lights, but most came out to support a good cause.
"Pretty much we're all here for the kids," said Staff Sgt. Ben Harlow, technical inspector, B Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, as he stood next to a row of sport bikes. Part of the All Throttle Motorcycle Club's charter is to establish a club for motorcyclists to enjoy safe riding and giving back to the community.
"We're a family club and try and get out for rides every weekend," Harlow added. "This is a good way to give back to the community and get to ride at the same time."
One rider enlisted his whole unit in the charitable event.
Master Sgt. Charles Owens, garrison tasking noncommissioned officer (NCO), 1101st Garrison Support Unit (GSU), filled a sleigh with donated toys. Owens, not one to mess with reindeer, pulls his sleigh with a beefy red and white Honda Valkyrie.
With the help of the 1101st GSU, Owens collected more than $1,100, and that doesn't include the toys people donated.
"When Sgt. Owens sent out the mail asking for donations, I knew I wanted to help more," said Sgt. Valerie Raymor, administrative NCO, 1101st GSU. She called Owens and asked to help collect money from people who wanted to donate, but didn't have time to purchase toys.
"Some of us know what's it's like to not get something for Christmas or to get very little. So I give to kids that may need it now that I can afford it," she said.
"It's in my heart to give," said Spc. Desiree Lau, mechanic, 1101st. GSU. "It's the little things that make a big difference in a child's life."
As Owens pulled up to the drop-off point, a boy asked him if that was Santa's sleigh.
"Yes," Owens, recounted. "Santa let me borrow it so I could help the less fortunate children."
"Can I help you unload Santa's sleigh'" the boy asked.
"You should have seen his face as he helped unload," said Owens. "He'd pull a toy out and hand it down and say, 'Wow, I hope I get one of these.'"
If that boy's excitement is an indication of how the other children will react to seeing a new toy for them, then it's all worthwhile.
"It's always nice to give back to the community," said Sgt. 1st Class Chris Laye, military police operations sergeant, Schofield Barracks, and director, Honolulu Harley Owners Group. "Some children, because of their circumstances, are unable to enjoy the holidays. This event helps them enjoy the holidays like we can."
The goal of the Toys For Tots Program is to send a message of hope to needy youngsters that will motivate them to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens and community leaders.