A quiet Saturday afternoon was pierced with motorcycles revving as the 35th Annual Prince Rupert Harley Riders Toy Run took over the city.
Ninety-five bikes lined Fraser Street as the Prince Rupert Harley Riders nearly matched last year’s record number of bikers — 108.
Each year the biking group does the toy run for the Salvation Army’s Christmas hamper program, Toys for Kids.
Capt. Gary Sheils said they usually get approximately 300 toys, as well as a cash donation of about $10,000, although he won’t know those numbers for this year until later on.
Last year, the donations helped some 850 families and almost 3,500 total people. Sheils expects similar numbers this time around.
“I’m very grateful for the generosity of this community. This is such a generous town. It’s been such a joy and privilege to serve here. I would like everybody to know just how grateful I am,” said Sheils, who is retiring next summer.
The captain rode with the Harley Riders for the first time this year, fulfilling last year’s promise to ride in his final Toy Run. Not only was it his first ride with the group, but it was his first time on a big motorcycle.
“It was a bit of a rush, actually. I was a little nervous leaning into the corners but I was glad I’m safe and secure in my salvation,” he joked.
Sheils amused the crowd by telling them he planned to do the ride on a pink scooter, while wearing a pink helmet, but he wasn’t able to pull it together.
The bikers rode for three hours, making a few stops along the way before ending at the Oceanview Hotel.
“Without the help of groups like the Harley Riders and lots of other organizations, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Sheils said.
The Salvation Army’s Christmas program to help the less fortunate costs approximately $100,000 yearly and the Rupert faithful continually give to the cause and then some, something Sheils is very thankful for.
Concluding the day, the Harley Riders hosted a dance at the Fishermen’s Hall. Admission was $10 plus a new toy or non-perishable food item.
While addressing the bikers, Sheils told them the Toy Run has probably donated a total of approximately 35,000 toys in its history.