Not having the annual "Toy Run," an event to collect toys and funds for the Salvation Army Christmas Program, was not something Newton Lion's Club member Melanie Babbitt — or Bill Ryan with Those Blasted Signs — could live with.
"Without us stepping forward, the Salvation Army will not have enough to take care of the needs," Babbitt said. "The Toy Run, the donation of toys and funds, is vital to our community. The economy is a rough place, and as a community we need to step up."
As a result, there's a Toy Run back on the calendar — scheduled for 1 p.m. Nov. 10. Bikers can start in Wichita earlier, then ride to Newton for the big ride through town from the Chisholm Trail Retail and Outlet Shops to the VFW.
Ryan said he has helped with several of the toy runs, and when the event's main sponsor chose to stop after 27 years it looked like the event would die. After thinking about it, and learning about the need in Harvey County, he felt "compelled" to do something.
"They asked if I want to do this, and I said I would love too," Ryan said. "I'm very excited to have this going. I think it will be, providing the weather is good, I'm looking forward to it being one of the best we have had. If we can get the community involved along with the bikes, it will be huge."
All the bikes will be on display at the VFW during a chili feed and auction which is open to the public.
"I want help turning this into a community event," Ryan said. "People can come to the mall, but we'd love to see them at the VFW for the auction. Right now we need auction items — and that is usually the biggest money maker we have, the auction."
One year ago the Toy Run donated $2,000 in cash and 700 toys to the Salvation Army.
In 2012, the Salvation Army Christmas Program served 200 families — about 400 children — through the Angel Tree and toy drive efforts. Some of the donations — like one of gift cards for Wal-Mart, came in late last year. Those cards came Christmas eve — after the toy distribution. Staff delivered them to homes of families who otherwise may not have received assistance with Christmas.
"I remember how special Christmas was as a kid," Babbitt said. "Each of us can step up and donate one gift. Would we want our children to not have a gift under the tree?"
The application process for the Christmas program began Oct. 1.