Sunday, November 4, 2012
He was lured by a chance to ride and help local children.
"To take care of the kids that don't have the money to get the toys," biker Scott Ruse of Wichita said.
Ruse and his wife began going to the annual Wichita Toy Run seven years ago.
"We would all gather at the stadium and take several hours to get everything organized, then everyone would pull out of the stadium and go up Broadway," Ruse said.
But this year, there would be no "run," no ride up Broadway.
Police and organizers decided months ago the multiple accidents during the event last year, attributed to alcohol use and inexperience, were the final straw. The event in its 32nd year had grown beyond its means, they said.
"Because of that, we would have a rally in town so it would prevent the possibility of someone else getting hurt," Ruse said.
The stationary rally in the Delano District would be safer. It would feature live bands, activities, vendor booths, drawings for prizes, and a chance to bikers to hang out with each other.
But would Ruse and other bikers still show up?
"We were all just wondering, 'How is this going to work?'" Salvation Army City Commander Major Douglas Rowland said. "'Was it going to be the same kind of response?'"
The answer turned out to be yes, organizers said.
Organizers say they estimate 6,000 people and 2,500 bikes converged on the Delano District Sunday. They say that well-exceeded their expectations.
And the people who showed up, came bearing gifts. They donated nearly $4,000 in cash, which is higher than last year, organizers said. They also heaped up toy donations knee-high on Osage Street for the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots.
"I wouldn't be surprised if some brought toys from the community who weren't bikers so it became a real community thing," Rowland said.
Salvation Army leaders say the toy donations do appear to be down slightly from last year. But they say there will be plenty of toys to hand out to the nearly 10,000 children they aim to help this holiday season.
They'll hand those toys out at the old Big Dog Motorcycles building on Douglas a week before Christmas.
But no matter the final numbers, the event Sunday was a major accomplishment, bikers said. They say seeing people embrace the changed-event in the wake of the death of long-time organizer Holly Potelle has special meaning.
Potelle died in a motorcycle accident in June of this year.
Organizers say her memory became a rallying point to build the new Toy Run Rally around. They sold T-Shirts and commemorative buttons with holly leaves and berries. They also presented Holly's husband with her restored motorcycle.
"I know that Holly would be very pleased to see what took place and to see that it's continued," Rowland said.
Not only has it continued, Scott Ruse says, but the organizers who stepped up to put it together have helped lay the foundation for the Run to flourish in the future in its new format.
"I hope with the turnout we had this year, bikers will spread the news to their friends that even though we didn't get to ride, it was a great experience," Ruse said.