Thousands of toys, delivered on two wheels

Almost anywhere you went Sunday, you could hear motorcycles growling through Wichita.

All told, 2,777 cycles traveled from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium Sunday afternoon and followed Broadway north to the Kansas Pavilions for the 32nd annual Wichita Toy Run.

It took the better part of two hours for the biker parade to finish as people lined Broadway to cheer and wave support.

Not all the viewers were charitable.

In downtown Wichita, traffic was snarled on streets intersecting Broadway and impatient drivers honked and gestured.

An accident at 25th and Broadway occurred when a motorcyclist lost control of his motorcycle. Both the biker and a female passenger fell from the bike and suffered serious injuries. Both were taken to Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis, according to a dispatcher with 911.

A second accident involving a bike and rider happened in the 6900 block of North Broadway, the dispatcher said. Those people received only minor injuries.

"It has been a long time since we had an accident, since we even had problems," said Holly Potelle, director of the annual toy run. "You just never know with this many motorcycles."

But for the most part, it was a feel-good parade where bikers gathered thousands of toys and other holiday donations for the Salvation Army, Toys for Tots and the Kansas Food Bank.

A mountain load of toys were collected — giant teddy bears, makeup kits, music players, and blinking, flashing electronic toys.

It took four 26-foot-long trucks to haul away the toys, Potelle said. It is not yet known how much money was raised during the event. Last year, more than $13,000 was raised.

The event, which started in 1980 with only 30 riders has grown considerably through the years into one of the largest biking events in Kansas.

"It is something that needs to be done," said Potelle, who has been involved with the event since its creation. "There is this need in the community. The kids need it. You can get by — there are a lot of things you can cut. But there are some things you can't do without. I don't think kids should do without at Christmas."

The organization is all-volunteer — no money is paid for salaries. Donations go to those in need, Potelle said.

Among the rows and rows of bikers were Wichitans Dan and Dorothy Haines, dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The first time the couple ever participated in the annual event was 1996 — and they were hooked.

"This is about the most fun a person can have on a motorcycle," Dan Haines said. "You are collecting toys, making kids happy and donating to several different charities."

Plus, Dorothy Haines said, "you see all the people you know."

For Gene Taldo of Park City, the Toy Run is simply a way to keep giving service. The Vietnam-era Marine is also a member of the American Legion and Patriot Guard.

He arrived early on Sunday — at 7 a.m. —to participate.

"For me, it is just overwhelming," Taldo said. "Anything I can do to give back, I do. I participate in a lot of welcome home and sendoffs, Honor Guard and funerals for World War II veterans. It gives you a good feeling to do this."

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