TUSCUMBIA — Lymann Rea gets emotional when discussing the thousands of children who have received toys and gifts as a result of a local motorcycle toy run that began 14 years ago.
“There is nothing like it, seeing those children getting gifts,” Rea said, pausing briefly to keep his emotions under control. “For a lot of them, this may be the only presents they get. It really touches your heart knowing that you’re helping them have a little happiness in their lives.”
Bruce Daily, a member of the Saints Motorcycle Club, has been involved with the toy run for several years. He said he looks forward to every year. He will be there Saturday in Tuscumbia to participate in this year’s event.
“The look on the faces of those children is something you can never forget,” Daily said. “There’s a lot of tears shed when the bikers start handing out the gifts, and it’s usually from the bikers.” Rea started the toy run in 1998 after he participated a year earlier in another one.
“You just dropped the toys off and never saw the children,” Rea said. “I didn’t like that. There was no interaction with the children. I decided I would put a ride together and I did.” The first toy run Rea said there were two motorcycles and seven children.
“I called a teacher at Russellville and asked her if she knew any children who was going to be doing without at Christmas,” Rea said. “She brought the children and we gave them gifts and fed them chicken stew. After that, it took off.” Daily expects about 200 bikers to participate this year.
“They come from all over — Dallas, Knoxville and New Orleans, and they come every year,” Daily said. “We had 160 children last year and we anticipate providing for 200 this year,” Rea said. “It’s a big difference from 14 years ago.” The motorcycle ride begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Saints Motorcycle Clubhouse on Second Street in the Brick Hatton community. Riders will have a law enforcement escort to Launch Point Church on U.S. 72 in Tuscumbia, where they will hook up with the children at 11 a.m. The event is for children 13 years old and younger.
“It is really something special to see these bikers interacting with the children,” said Launch Point Church pastor Shane Swinney. “It is truly an amazing event.” Swinney said food will be provided for the children and their parents.
“Our church will also be providing some entertainment for them,” he said. “It is a huge community service event that really touches the lives of everyone involved.” Rea said the event is being sponsored by Natchez Trace Harley Davidson, The Saints Motorcycle Club, the Christian Motorcycle Association and Launch Point Church.
He said members of the Saints Motorcycle Club have placed donation boxes at businesses throughout the area. “People can donate toys and cash and we will take the money and buy toys,” Rea said.
“I’ve already got a trunk load and we’re just getting started,” Daily said. “And everyone of those bikers will bring in a toy or two.”
Rea said the event has gotten bigger than he envisioned possible.
“I never even thought about it getting this big, but there was a higher power involved. This has the Lord’s hand all over it, and it’s by his grace that we’ve able to continue this event,” he said. “We get as much of a blessing out of this as the children do. We have a chance to visit one-on-one with them and let them and families know that no matter how hard things may be, there is someone who cares about them.” Daily summed up the event in one sentence.
“We may never see these kids again, but at least for one day we bring them some happiness,” he said.
For more information, contact Rea at 256-412-0596, Swinney at 256-335-1193 or Daily at 256-412-6595.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com