20 years of fun in the sun
The world’s largest toy run keeps growing
Sunrise, Fla., Dec. 9—If the success of a run could be determined by how your feet feel at the end of the day, then the Toys in the Sun Run is right up there with The Biker Roundup and Sturgis. Getting out of those thick leather, heavy-heel riding boots and into a hot shower, with bugs in your hair and teeth and the tiniest but toughest tangles in those few loose strands of hair still remains one of a biker’s small pleasures. This is how the party on the second weekend in December ended for the 60,000 biker brothers and sisters of South Florida.
In 1987, the late Bob Amchir, then-president of the newly formed Wings of Gold MC, decided it might be better if all the smaller toy runs put all that energy towards creating one large event that everyone could attend and support. And Bob was not the kind of guy you said “No” to. The first Toys in the Sun Run netted $965 cash and 500 toys from the 700 motorcycles that showed up.
Since that inception, the Toys in the Sun Run and all its encircling events have steadily grown to the magnitude of a weekend-long biker run. Today there are 32 motorcycle clubs and numerous other motorcycle organizations that make this special event happen on an annual basis. Planning begins all over again when the last two wheels roll out of Markham Park; giving organizers 12 more months to bring the planet’s largest toy run to fruition.
Miles of motorcycles
Over 30,000 motorcycles participate in this event each year and, with the help of Broward and Dade County police agencies that include 22 departments and 230 police officers, they actually close down three major Interstates to ensure a safe motorcade parade.
The parade begins at the Isle Casino and Pompano Harness Track in Pompano Beach, Florida. The pack of motorcycles travels 26 miles to Broward County’s Markham Park. It takes approximately three hours to get all those bikes to the end of their ride. VIPs can shell out some extra cash to ride up front, which is a good idea, since rolling out of the track and into the park has been compared to that stroll down any Main Street during any Bike Week. Grand marshal of the parade this year was Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti. There are over 150 police motor officers, as well as sponsorships cars and, of course, the big guy in the fluffy red suit who heads up the parade from a vintage fire truck. Once the pack of thousands arrives at Markham Park and disperses the many toys to the awaiting trucks and volunteers, riders are greeted with over 100 vendors from all over the country. There are rides for the kids, a food court with a board variety of fare to suit everyone, a huge bike show and a huge car show open to all vehicles—low riders, antiques, classics, trucks, street rods, and anything fast and furious.
Famous and formerly famous
Often compared to the California Love Ride, this run is big in bikers and in heart. People attend from as far away as New York, Boston, Detroit, California and Texas. There are now three stages for live music. Headlining this year was Vince Neil, who is part of Motley Crew history. He remained sequestered in a small trailer backstage. Steven Tyler, past grand marshal and a man who actually mingles with the people, brought along his setup for Red Wing Motorcycles, a new collection of custom motorcycles inspired by Steven’s artistic vision, designed by master engineer and inventor Mark Dirico and brought to life by the builders at AC Custom Motorcycles.
Music is a huge part of this 26-acre party and the local bands like Hep Cat Boo Daddies and Southern Crossroads do not disappoint. Slip and the Spinouts bring along the rockabilly and Hatrick doesn’t miss a beat. My Soul to Keep, Cold Iron and Not Fragile keep the soundtracks of our lives pumping out. Lita Ford, a ’70s rocker from The Runaways, was on the poster as well.
Motorcycle luminaries on site included Roger Bourget, Aaron Green, Eddie Trotta, and Vince and Dale of Wide Open Originals. Dave Perewitz came all the way from the Boston area to toss out Hard Rock Café shirts to the crowds. Vagabond Chickie Athena Ramsom of Vagabond Choppers and the Chopper Chicks Crew were also here this year and we got the chance to hang out. Athena remains approachable, never losing her sense of where she came from. Chopper Chick JoAnn “Crazy Horse” Bortles brought along that crazy wild flamed Sporty and put it into the bike show. The bike show this year was ousted from its original setting and there weren’t as many bikes entered. Still, we don’t enter those things to get acknowledged, willing instead to accept a $10 trophy with meaning.
Perhaps the most moving part of the day came when Shannon Battle sang the National Anthem. Shannon’s a child from the sunny shores of Ft. Lauderdale Beaches and her stage career started with paper bag puppet shows. At 15 she began a professional music career, singing for all sorts of parties and local events. With Dave Amchir and his wife Debi by her side, she sang to the crowd and there wasn’t a dry eye on the field. Flapping overhead was the banner for Bob Amchir. The South Florida Toys in the Sun Run is now dedicated to the memory of Bob to let everyone know he’s gone but not forgotten. Amchir passed away just days before the event in 2006 from complications of leukemia.
All the right reasons
Over $20 million in toys has been collected and handled by the Fraternal Order of Police and then distributed in the four southern Florida counties. The money raised from this year’s event has exceeded the $6 million mark, partly generated by gate sales where all the biker fun and games cost only a $10 donation and a new, unwrapped toy. Dave Amchir, presiding president of the SFPC and director of this gigantic Toy Run, always takes a few minutes for the press and people wanting his picture. Dave and Debi have always given the media high priority and we can’t thank them enough.
Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation is one of the main beneficiaries of the run. To honor two decades of commitment, the new Pediatric Trauma Center at Hollywood Memorial is now named after the South Florida President’s Council of Motorcycle Clubs & Organizations and a plaque on the main wall lists all the clubs and organizations by name.
This Toy Run makes money for the right reasons of the season. In the past 19 years, it’s given millions of dollars in toys to needy children and money to Joe’s Hospital, but it has also donated over $120,000 to COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors) Kids. The Shott Memorial received $7,000; North Broward Hospital District received $25,000; Old Age Broward County received $3,500; and Broward County Parks and Recreation received $15,000. In addition, Children’s Health Foundation received $2,500, and the Boys & Girls Clubs received $160,000. That’s over $200,000 in additional Toy Run donations. The Toys in the Sun Run assists adults as well as thousands of children with a portion of the collected funds dedicated to research and treatment of cystic fibrosis, juvenile diabetes, cancer, and pre-natal care for mothers in need. Because of their commitment to our communities, this huge undertaking has reached for and attained wonderful and humane goals.
An event like this grows larger each year, not only for the participants but for everyone involved in the organization process. Several vendor and sponsor booths, like Hooters, had caches of pretty girls. Our favorite gals at this all-day picnic, though, were the Southern Bike Night Girls as they were willing and quite able to pose on any nearby bike and lend a Southern Belle smile to anyone feeling left out.
The always gracious Phil Peterson’s Harley-Davidson dealership gave away a 2008 105th Anniversary FLHX Street Glide and a Trailer-In-A-Bag. Tickets could be purchased from SFPC patch holders or any of the authorized South Florida Harley-Davidson or metric motorcycle dealerships. These people start selling tickets in August, in case you want to start saving up now.
The SFPC gratefully presents a follow-up appreciation party in January to acknowledge the contributions of the many supporters of this amazing toy run. It’s during this time when the final check for all monies raised is bestowed. The Council is here for all of us in South Florida, whether its Christmas time or July. Thank a patch holder when you see one. We’re all still just kids at heart.