Every year for the past 39 years, local motorcyclists have joined forces to raise tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts for those who find themselves less fortunate during the festive season. This year will look a little different.
It’s called the Canberra and Region Motorcyclists Toy Run, and it’s organised by the ACT branch of the Motorcycle Riders Association (MRA).
On a Saturday in early December, a massive group of over 1,000 – resplendent in Santa gear and with saddlebags crammed with toys and other donations – overflow the car parks at Old Parliament House. From here, they set off under police escort to a Salvation Army drop-off point.
This Saturday, 5 December, would mark the 40th anniversary of the event, except for one thing: COVID-19.
“Are you having a Toy Run this year? That’s the question we keep hearing, and the answer is: not like previous years, but yes!” a spokesman said.
Due to the health restrictions on public gatherings currently still in place in the ACT which limit numbers to 500, the MRA will encourage motorcycling groups to organise their own rides to make donations.
Mark Boast is the president of the MRA ACT, and describes it as a “big event” and one that’s been very well supported.
“People come up from the coast; the various motorbike groups get involved. It’s become part of the calendar.”
The MRA ACT was formed in the early 1970s to “represent motorcycle riders and protect their rights and independence”. They fought back under the motto of ‘Let Those Who Ride Decide’ on such issues as mandatory lights on, front number plates, and crash helmets.
They’ve since agreed that “occasionally losing can be a good thing” as the helmet ruling “has saved many thousands of us from debilitating injuries”.
They also sit at the Chief Minister’s Road Safety table, passing on concerns with sub-standard roads and road-side furniture. A pot-hole, for instance, may be cringeworthy in a car but it could be deadly for a motorcyclist.
As well as treading the fine line of safety improvements and riders rights, the MRA seeks to promote motorcycling as a “safe, efficient, and greener alternative form of sustainable transport”. Perhaps even a viable option for someone who already harnesses a herd of reindeer to his sleigh.
The Toy Run isn’t their only annual ride for charity either.
The MRA is also behind the Pink Ribbon Ride for breast cancer, the Ride for Difference, Vintage and Veterans Swap Meet, and Vietnam Vets Poker and charity rides.
The drop-off location for this year’s Toy Run has yet to be confirmed, but the MRA is urging Canberrans to look out for and support the riders, as well as personally making a donation.
“Every dollar raised or present given will benefit Canberrans in need and give a valuable leg up to the Salvation Army and St John’s Care during one of their busiest periods,” the spokesman said.
Donation details to St Johns Care are BSB 702 389, Account 052 094 90. Mark it as ‘Motorcyclists Toy Run’.