The biker crowd got up bright and early Sunday, all ready to roll in the annual charity ride, the Toys in the Sun Run.
The popular event got its start 34 years ago, collecting thousands of toys and more than $11 million for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood. The South Florida Presidents Council, an organization of 31 local motorcycle clubs, hosts the Toy Run, an event that has drawn as many as 30,000 riders in years past.
Murphy, of Fort Lauderdale, missed last year’s ride.
“We laid back last year with all the COVID stuff going on,” he said.
But this year, he was back, along with around 2,000 riders who arrived with a stash of toys and headed out on their chrome and steel beauties to do a good deed for the holidays.
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Toy Run organizers usually have permission to hog the road for charity, with police escorts shutting down highways for a few hours until the long line of motorcycles passes by. That changed with COVID-19.
Organizer Bruce Weinberg, vice president of the Wings of Gold Motorcycle Club, took over in 2020 during a pandemic that forced him to find a new way to lure riders.
“I’ve been a member of the club for over 20 years,” he said. “I said, ‘No way we’re going to let this die.’”
Weinberg came up with a poker run.
“Last year we had it as a poker run because of COVID,” he said. “We’re doing same thing this year because we’re coming out of COVID.”
This year’s poker run had five checkpoints that started at the Alligator Alley Harley-Davidson dealer in Sunrise and ended at America’s Backyard in Fort Lauderdale. Riders also headed to the Boars Nest Saloon in Oakland Park, Mickey’s Tiki Bar in Pompano Beach and Cagney’s Saloon in Davie.
The Toy Run wouldn’t be the same without Santa.
Ed Braxl sporting a long white beard and crisp blue eyes, has played the part for 27 years and did so again on Sunday.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Braxl, a Miramar resident and volunteer at Joe DiMaggio’s who helps hand out the toys every year.
Jay Winter, a Hollywood rider with the Der Krieger motorcycle club, brought a kickball, trucks and dolls to donate to the toy pile.