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2011 United Motorcyclists of Vermont’s 25th Annual Toy Run

25th Annual UMV Toy Run 2011

2011 United Motorcyclists of Vermont Toy Run
Thanks to everyone who showed up and helped with this year’s Toy Run. We had around 900 motorcycles and collected a lot of toys (and money) for kids at Shriners Hospitals for Children. We’re put up some photos from this year’s Toy Run and from the last two. We recently updated our Website and instead of putting the photo gallery here, we’re putting it on Facebook. Please add any photos you have and want to share.

The 25th Annual Toy Run was a great success. We had between 800 and 900 bikes, we lost count at about 850 so it’s closer to 900. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, just like it always is for the Toy Run.

This year UMV raffled off a Kikker Motorcycle at the Toy Run. The winner donated $1,000 to the Shriners after being told he had won. Nice way to give back to the community.

Vermont state senator Joe Benning was the guest speaker. Both the governor and lieutenant governor had been invited. Senator Benning is a long time motorcyclist, former member of Freedom of the Road for Vermont (UMV’s predecessor) and a supporter of motorcyclists’ rights. He spoke of a conversation he had with Rod Clark, one of the organizers of the 1st Toy Run.

The idea for a toy run was hatched at the very first FOR-Vermont organizational meeting in the summer of 1986. We knew the importance of building credibility and avoiding becoming known as just “the helmet law guys”.

We decided to hold it in August for a simple reason; we trusted the weather more. Rain is more likely in July and it might snow in September. So August 16 it was.

We enlisted WDEV as co-sponsor to gain coverage and set the following Saturday as a rain date. Bad idea! More on that later.

I approached Central Vermont Community Action as a potential recipient of the toys. They turned us down, saying we were too “political.” This in spite of the fact that we hadn’t yet done anything political. Then we were also rebuffed by the state Social and Rehabilitation Services Department.

I dropped a dime on the bureaucrats, took these rejections to the media and got huge coverage; CVCAC and the state looked like fools and FOR-Vermont was off and running as “the good guys.”

That’s when we approached the Shriners and forged a lasting relationship.

We started the run at Dubois Trucking on Route 14 in Barre. On the day of the run, it drizzled and threatened rain. I was in a panic, wondering whether to postpone it until the rain date. Then I realized there’d be no way to get the word out, so we went ahead.

About 125 bikes showed up on a cloudy, overcast dreary day, but the toy run went off without a hitch. That night we partied in a field alongside a road in Craftsbury.

And now, as Paul Harvey said, you know “the rest of the story.” Hope this helps. And please tell everybody I said hi. Even though I’m probably just a forgotten piece of ancient history by now, my heart is still with the movement.

Ride safe, ride free, ride proud.”

Joe Benning

The Toy Run is held the second Saturday of August every year. We stage at the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) parking lot in Berlin, VT. The ride/parade to the State House (the people’s house) starts at noon sharp. Please be at BCBS well before 11:00 to prepare for this police escorted ride.