It’s the holiday season again, and as always I’m impressed by the efforts engaged community by community in bringing Christmas presents to children—seems everyone puts on their Santa helmet this time of year. I got in touch with Gene Nelson of Medford, Oregon, to get the scoop on the Rogue Valley Toy Run. It’s a fine example in southern Oregon. Last year at this time Gene was just trying to get on his feet (and out of a wheelchair) after an accident, but this season he’s in fine shape for the 33rd year of the event; one of the oldest continuously-running toy runs in the nation. Originally it was Jackson County ABATE who started the run, but in the mid-90’s that group turned in their charter and former chapter coordinator (yep, Gene) and other stalwarts decided to rally to keep the toy run going. In the early days attendance was modest. Today numbers can exceed 1,000. The event benefits the Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) hospital in Medford. The CMN is often confused with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the latter an organization that grants wishes of terminally ill children. But the CMN works community by community to save the lives of children by raising funds and awareness for children’s hospitals. Because of their presence on the charitable landscape, medical care to children, without regard to the financial profile of the patient’s family, is more readily secured. Over the years Gene has managed to rouse some remarkable support. One of the many sponsors is Jeff Shaw, a THUNDER PRESS reader and Screamin’ Eagle Electra Glide rider. “Jeff (Shaw) prints up all of the posters for the event, and does it for free,” from his business, Quality Printing of Medford. Other notables include Steve Anderson from Custom Body Art who designed the 2013 T-shirt, or Carl Van Orden of Wildblue Graphics who photographs Anderson’s art and undertakes the T-shirt printing. The list of businesses and individuals who chip in to help children and to bring Christmas to Rogue Valley families is mighty impressive. One hundred percent of the proceeds from donations or T-shirt sales goes out to the CMN, and the toys target the Salvation Army and law enforcement agencies. Nothing goes to overhead—it’s all for the kids. Other satellite operations across the nation are doing similar things of course but, I’d have to say, this one is pretty stellar—last year raising $8,000 for the CMN in addition to all the toys. The Salvation Army, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Central Point Police Department and Jackson County foster parents are the destination for the presents gathered. The Medford Fire Department puts a fire truck in the bike parade. Organizer Nelson said, “Two of our sponsors had to drop out because of hard times, but then four others stepped in, so we’re OK.” Nelson told me that if a rider is unable to manage to bring a toy, that if they’d be willing to buy a couple T-shirts it would serve the fundraising goals. To dress things up this year, helping to sell 50/50 tickets during the event are the likes of two beauties, Miss Oregon and Miss Rogue Valley. The ladies will also be riding in the parade and will be available for photo ops to boot. Part of the duties of Miss Oregon during her reign includes acting as the primary fundraiser for the Oregon region for the CMN. “So,” as Nelson explained, “the Rogue Valley Toy Run is a good fit for her. The event is well touted on television and radio thanks to sponsorship by five different radio stations and the local TV network KDRV-12. Each radio station created an ad that caters to their listeners, and coupled with the TV station, the region really promotes the event well. It may sound strange, but the meeting place (December 7 at 10:00 a.m.) is new sponsor Expert Mattress at the intersection of Highway 62 and Vilas Road. Social hour starts at 10:00 with hot drinks and doughnuts and the parade leaves at noon; destination is the Medford Eagle’s Club. New, unwrapped toys or stuffed animals are welcome. Stuffed animals will be for law enforcement agencies so that when responding to calls where little ones are present, they have a soft cuddly distraction… Granted, the Rogue Valley isn’t handy for everyone, but somewhere near you a similar effort can be enhanced by your participation. For more info contact, phone 541.535.5515 or find the Rogue Valley Toy Run’s Facebook page online.


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