Bikers seem to have the biggest hearts of any segment of society. A big, rough-looking biker that looks like he eats nails for breakfast will gladly lay down his hard-earned money to help a brother or sister. Or show up at toy run with a bag of toys bungeed on the back of his bike. This was the scenario repeated over and over again in Central Florida during the Christmas season. And the runs started early this year with one of the largest in the Southeast taking place on December 1 over in Melbourne. That’s where a few thousand riders staged up at the Merritt Square Mall for the 32nd annual Toy Run hosted by Brevard ABATE. Just a week later on the 7th, another big ride took place in Leesburg with over 400 riders supporting the 10th annual Toy Run of Lake County hosted by the Lake County United Motorcyclist Association Inc. These are two of my favorite holiday events and always kick off my holidays, so refer to my story in this issue for the details on both… The Eagle Riders District 12 hosted their 2013 Great Teddy Bear Poker Run over on the west coast as well on December 7. Registrations were held at the Seminole Eagles Club in St. Pete with participants handing over $10 each and a loveable little teddy bear. Then it was off to various other Eagles Club locations in St. Pete, Clearwater and Pinellas Park before heading back to the starting point. The person holding the best hand took home a cool $100 prize and the proceeds and teddy bears went to local children’s charities… On the 8th, a new toy run was staged by my friends Christi and Tom with Art in Motion in Kissimmee. The ride rolled out of their shop, making stops throughout Osceola County before ending up at Gatorland on Orange Blossom Trail. They raised almost $700 from the 190 participants, which will be donated along with the 260 toys to the Osceola County Marines… That same day, about three hours’ drive south of O-town in Sunrise, is an event I’ve heard is the biggest toy run in all of the Southeastern U.S. —the 26th annual Toys in the Sun Run. This year an estimated 30,000 people participated in this huge event that shut down two major highways for three hours. Proceeds from the event benefit the Children’s Cancer Treatment Center at the Joe Dimaggio Children’s Hospital that cares for hundreds of needy children in the area. Come rain or shine, riders line up in the parking lot of the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale before departing for Interstate 95 where this year’s Grand Marshal, Sheriff Scott Israel, was in the lead. This ride rolls down the highway at a good clip and riders are warned not to stop for any reason or they will receive a ticket. At the end of the ride at Markham Park there’s plenty of musical entertainment and plenty of vendors lined up to offer food from all ethnic backgrounds and other goodies to stuff your own stockings with. The VIP entertainment this year was Brett Michaels, who also promised a donation of $5,000 to the cause… I would be remiss in writing about toy runs if I didn’t note the one hosted by Betty’s Laughing Horse Saloon in East Orlando on December 21. Betty has been inviting riders to her bar for 24 years to raise money and collect toys for the Central Florida Children’s Home, which operates solely on donations and support from the community. This event is a little different and more personal than just everyone bringing a stuffed animal or toy for some child without a face. The children at the home put together a wish list and it’s posted at Betty’s for a month or so in advance for everyone to see and take notes. Then everyone shows up the day of the event and the ride (escorted by Fire & Iron MC) heads to the home where the kids come out to get their wrapped goodies. It turns into total mayhem when the kids see the bikes roll in, and it’s really fun watching the children tear into their gifts. When the chaos settles down, riders head back to Betty’s for the afterparty with music, food, raffles and more fun… One of the other things so close to the heart of most riders is the love and respect for our military troops, both living and deceased. This was demonstrated on the 14th of December when riders and hundreds of others came together for the 8th annual Wreaths Across America event in all parts of our state. There are 147 national military cemeteries but the largest and closest one to Central Florida is in Bushnell. The ride was escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders and staged up in Brooksville at the Walmart parking lot early that morning. They left for the cemetery at 9:30. This solemn and heart-wrenching ceremony was hosted by the North Florida Chapter of the U.S. Military Vets MC. Donations can be made year round to support this wonderful event at www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.com. That’s it for this month from the Sunshine State—ride safe and God bless.