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Motorcyclists making Christmas merrier for Prince Rupert families

The thundering rumble of a pack of motorcycles, a hand of poker and a huge party may not sound like child-friendly activities.
Motorcycle enthusiasts will be taking to the streets this Saturday for the annual Toy Run.

The thundering rumble of a pack of motorcycles, a hand of poker and a huge party may not sound like child-friendly activities, but kids have been at the forefront of motorcyclists' minds during Prince Rupert's annual Toy Run event for more than three decades.

The Prince Rupert Harley Riders Club organizes the event each year in support of the Salvation Army Christmas Hamper program, which provides underprivileged families with food and gifts during the holiday season.

In 2013, the club was able to donate more than $10,000 and collected 617 toys during the Toy Run.

Capt. Gary Sheils of the Prince Rupert Salvation Army expects there will be between 825 and 850 families using the program this year, praising the Prince Rupert Harley Riders Club for all they have done over the years.

"It has been a tremendous help," said Capt. Sheils.

"We look after about 1,200 or 1,300 children every year, and every one of them needs a gift."

This spirit of giving back is something riders say they are happy to bring to Prince Rupert every year.

"We've donated between $330,000 and $350,000 [over the years]," said Chris Rose, who took over the role as club president this year, replacing Norm Sklapsky who ran the club for five years.

"I figured I'd step up to the plate. I've been part of the club for a few years now."

Prince Rupert's 33rd Annual Toy Run is set to take place on Saturday, Oct. 4, and will start off with the poker run departing from in front of the Salvation Army once again this year. Riders can enter into a massive round of poker before the group departs at 1 p.m., stopping at a number of locations in Prince Rupert and Port Edward to draw cards.

The final stop will be the Oceanview Restaurant and Pub this year, where riders can choose to have a $20 buffet-style dinner before they head to the Toy Run dance later that night.

As per usual, the dance will take place at the Fishermen's Hall with doors opening at 8 p.m. Admission is $10 and the donation of a toy, preferably educational or athletic, or non-perishable food items. Tickets for the dance can be purchased from Harley Riders Club members, or at the door.

"Everybody needs to step up and do their part to help the kids and families in the area who are not as fortunate," said Rose.

While Rose hasn't officially set a fundraising goal, he said he hopes the 2014 event will be able to raise the same amount it did in 2013.

A big contributor in recent years has been the sale of Toy Run T-shirts, which Rose said will be available at the dance and in the Rupert Square Mall in the coming weeks.

Rose said the Prince Rupert Harley Riders Club will be riding in memory of Jeff Adams this year, one of the event's founding members who recently passed away.

Just under 50 people participated in the 2013 poker run