1,200 Santas on two wheels

bikers raise $75,000 in donations; distribute thousands of toys

PHOTO/JANICE HOKE: Amanda Moran with some of the stuffed animals collected by the Northern Nevada Confederation of Clubs' holiday toy run this month.

Nearly all of the 1,200 or so motocycle riders participating  in this month’s Reno Toy Run brought a toy or two strapped on their bikes for the mass ride through Reno.

That’s in addition to the mountain of of toys collected in bins placed around the Truckee Meadows by the 56 clubs of the Northern Nevada Confederation of Clubs.

Results are in: thousands of toys, and a record amount of $75,000 in donations, $30,000 more than last year’s total. “My ultimate goal is $100,000 next year,” said organizer Opie Shawk of Sparks.

The toys and $3,000 checks were distributed on Saturday, Dec. 11, to groups and charities, including the Children’s Cabinet, Washoe Foster Care, Boys and Girls Club, Nevada Special Sports,
Eagle Valley Children’s Home, Lyon County CASA and the Veterans Guest House.

‘Keeping the lights on’

“Reno is a special place,” said Amanda Moran, board member of the Reno Toy Run, who has lived in the Biggest Little City since she was 2 years old.  “What we do benefits our local community.  Where we live, our heart is here.”

Shawk said the annual benefit is “part of our DNA. It’s what we do, help the community.”

Veterans Guest House manager Kathi McGathey said the group’s contribution helps keep the lights on at the facility. “We don’t get government support, and we are looking into transportation and Angel Flight,” she said.

PHOTO/RENO TOY RUN: Bikers assemble for this year’s Reno-Sparks Toy Run on Dec. 5.

NNCOC board member Dan Lewis of Reno, a board member of the organization, said he is rewareded by the smiles on kids’ faces. “You see the results when you deliver the toys to the kids,” he said  “(You see) the look on their faces and how grateful they are.”

The 20 members of Altrusa International of Reno/Sparks, while few in number, make a big difference in the Northern Nevada community.  Since their charter in October 2020, the group has “created multiple projects in the area,” said Courtney Vogt, the Reno club founder.

Year-round projects

Current Altrusa projects include story time at a laundromat ,an effort that has morphed into a library of books for children to take home during the pandemic, and an outreach program to motel and trailer park residents providing necessities like toiletries and cleaning products. Altrusa projects give members an opportunity to provide direct, person-to-person service. 

Several Altrusa members are at the helm of small local charities.

Liz McFarland and Project 150 Reno provide homeless, displaced, and disadvantaged students with food, school supplies, clothing, and toiletry items. Barbie Marcoe of Lexie’s Gift is now giving out face masks instead of prom and school clothing.

Small groups make a difference

Kimberly Weingartner manages Katie Grace Foundation to offer athletic support and scholarships to area highschoolers. Barbara Monroy directs The Community Food Pantry.  Thomas Hill heads  Cookies for Kindness, organizing and funding holiday dinners and barbecues for seniors, disabled veterans and families in transition by selling fresh baked cookies.

Altrusa member Donald Griffin is the co-founder and director of Black Wall Street, a group that gives out 500 sack lunches per month to Traner and Vaughn Middle School students.  The group is collecting shoes for a give-away on Dec. 18.

 “We have adopted a local family from Black Wall Street and are purchasing their Christmas wish lists and delivering to the family,” Vogt said. 

Griffin echoed Lewis’ motivation for getting involved in the holiday gifts effort. “Our reward is the smiles on their faces,” he said.

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