07-13-11-duke.jpgThere are some who would argue that bikers are scary. Their view of motorcycle riders involve visions of violent biker gangs out looking for trouble, not the many groups of riders who raise funds for the less for-tunate or the groups like the Patriot Guard Riders who honor fallen soldiers at funeral services across the country.

On Saturday, July 16, in an annual show of compassion that has be-come an event that many look forward to with great anticipation, Victory of Fayetteville is hosting the 9th Annual Christmas in July Toy Run.

As in years past, each rider is asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy in addition to the $15 entry fee. Passengers are welcome and it costs $10 for them to participate.

The event actually starts the night before the ride, on July 15. From 6-8 p.m. riders gather at Legends Pub on Bragg Boulevard, catch a bite to eat, listen to the live entertainment and preregister for the ride. Legends owner Holly Whitney has been a supporter of the event since its inception and looks forward to hosting the pre-ride registration party each year.

On the morning of the 16th, riders meet up at M&M Leather on Bragg Boulevard. Technically registration starts at 8 a.m., but event coordinator William Winford says that folks start registering right after set up is done, around 6:30 a.m.

The ride starts promptly at 8 a.m. and lasts two hours to the minute accord-ing to Winford and ends at Duke Children’s Hospital, which is where the fun really begins. The event is designed to support the children and families of Duke Children’s Hospital in conjunction with the Children’s Miracle Network.

“Once we get to the parking garage at the facility, Texas Roadhouse has al-ready been up there for a few hours and has prepared a meal for us — right in the parking garage,” said Winford. From the garage, the riders travel by foot to the hospital complex foyer. “Once we get to the complex, we form a human chain from inside the hospital foyer to the parking lot. The gifts are transferred by hand, from person to person, so people actually get to see and feel their toy being donated to the hospital.”

Unfortunately, due to the nature of some of the children’s illnesses, it is not possible to deliver the gifts directly to kids. That must be left to the hospital staff. The generosity does not end with the toys though. Each year the Wal-Mart Foundation writes a check to the Children’s Miracle Network matching the monetary value of gifts and dona-tions raised by the Christmas in July Toy Run participants and sponsors. The Children’s Network then donates the matching contribution to Duke Children’s Hospital. Over the past 8 years, more than $98,000 has been donated in conjunction with this event.

After the presentation of toys and funds to the Duke Children’s Hospital, everyone departs and comes back to M&M Leather for music and food.

The entire ride is escorted by law enforcement, from Fayetteville to the Duke Children’s Hospital parking lot. While each jurisdiction provides law enforcement along the way, Cumberland County sends escorts along for the entire ride as a contribution to the cause, since the motorcade can be as long as ¾ of a mile some years.

As one of the original riders, Winford has a deep commitment to Christmas in July.07-13-11-baby.jpg

“Certain things just get into your blood. This is how Christmas in July is to me,” said Winford. “We have actually had riders on this event who were Duke children themselves, or whose children were Duke children. It is a very emotional and significant event for them. It runs deep and has real purpose and meaning. It hits people individually and it really hits this community.”

Winford recognizes that an event like this has no success without the support of the community. And like it does in so many countless other ways, the local citizens and businesses have stepped up year after year to do what is right and to help their fellow man … and children.

Call 426-5082 to find out how you can help.

Photo: On July 16, in an annual show of compassion that has become an event that many look forward to with great anticipation, Victory of Fayetteville is hosting the 9th Annual Christmas in July Toy Run.

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