By Chad Frey
Monday Barbara Lee, director of the Harvey County Salvation Army, was laughing about a problem she kept having.
"I'm out of boxes," she would say through chuckles. "As soon as I make one, they fill it up."
She and a team of volunteers were sorting through toys donated during Sunday's annual Toy Run. Sunday was a record-breaking day — and just how many toys or how much money was raised was not yet fully known on Monday. Lee and her team spent all day sorting toys.
"The kids are going to be really happy this year," Lee said. "Sometimes you get just enough, sometimes not enough. This is more than enough."
And she had plenty of sorting to do.
Organizers had predicted a record number of motorcycles, and in turn donations, for the annual Toy Run this year. And it was a record number they received.
More than 30 minutes before the ride was to start, motorcycles completely encircled the parking lot of the Chisholm Trail Outlet and Retail Shops — and they went four abreast down the center aisle of that parking lot as well. The parade out of the lot — which included Santa Claus aboard an antique fire truck, fire trucks, the "Pink Heals" fire truck and classic cars — took more than 15 minutes.
"It could not have been any bigger," said organizer Bill Ryan. "We need a bigger building, we will have to work on that."
He estimated nearly 1,200 motorcycles were part of the parade. Other estimates approached 1,900. All anyone really knows is this year was the biggest ever.
"They just kept coming and coming and coming," Lee said.
At the end of riding parade-style through Newton, motorcyclists donated toys and cash to the Salvation Army at the Newton American Legion Post on Spencer Ave. The post also hosted a chili feed and auction. Ryan said it was standing room only, and many did not even come inside after the ride.
Ryan said a combination of good weather and the memory of one of Newton's sons combined to make this ride larger than ever. This year the ride became a memorial ride for Wayne Kemp. Born in Newton in 1972, Kemp was a respected custom motorcycle builder and owner of Wayne Kemp Kustoms. He was featured in Iron Horse magazine and others for his custom bike creations. He also owned Alpha Recovery Service. He died Aug. 5 following a motorcycle accident.
"That had a lot to do with it. People came up out of Wichita. That is why we had a big turnout in Wichita. We had a pretty normal turnout here before they got here. There were a lot of people out for Wayne, he had a lot to do with that," Ryan said.
Monday donations were still coming to into Ryan's shop. He told The Kansan he hoped to have a final figure on donations by Wednesday.