GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — Hundreds of motorcyclists rumbled through Gastonia on Sunday all in an effort to help out Santa to give a child a gift to open Christmas morning.
”This is an amazing because where we get to see other riders while helping kids around the county,” said Jennelle McCorkle, 51, who is known as “Butta Scotch,” whenever she rides her 2015 Red Indian Chief.
McCorkle, a member of the Gastonia “Ladies 1st BIK-HERS” club since August 2000, says the annual Toys for Tots motorcycle ride gives her a chance to help less fortunate families and also make connections with other motorcyclists each year.
”This is a community of riders who want to help. You can ask a riding club for any assistance and we will be the first ones to be there, this is what we do,” said McCorkle.
Toys for Tots partners with Gastonia Salvation Army and Gaston County social workers to put on the event each year. This year marked the 35th annual Toys for Tots event.
Riders began at the Erwin Community Center on North Pryor Street at 1 p.m. Sunday and rode through town with a Gastonia Police escort before ending the ride and delivering their toys at Eastridge Mall to the Salvation Army.
Residents stood outside their homes to watch the motorcyclists pass by. Some of the motorcyclists wore festive Christmastime clothing while strapping their toy donation to their motorcycles.
The Salvation Army received hundreds of toys from the bikers. These toys will go to families who have signed up for the Salvation Army’s Christmas Angel Tree program.
“Whenever we count the donations, we will take them to our distribution center in Gastonia and then parents will come via a drive-thru to pick up the toys in late December,” said Maj. David Phelps of the Gastonia Salvation Army, who has been a commanding officer in the Gastonia region since June.
Phelps has observed many kinds of fundraisers during his 20 years in the Salvation Army, previously serving the Rocky Mount region. While calling Gastonia his new home, Phelps has discovered the meaning of community while planning the event.
To participate in the ride, riders had to bring at least one unwrapped toy per motorcycle, but with the holiday spirit in the air, many brought more.
“This is by far the largest event I have ever experienced,” said Phelps.
”This many people donating enough toys just to make sure kids have a good Christmas is something amazing to see.”