Some of the bikes and riders that took part in last weekend's annual Toy and Rod Run on the North Island.

Live to ride, ride so others may live

Bikers travel to the North Island for the 28th annual Toy and Rod Run.

HYDE CREEK—Bikers from across Vancouver Island converged on its northernmost communities last weekend to kick off an annual series of rides and activities to benefit local causes.

Nearly 80 bikers, most of them from outside the North Island, assembled Saturday morning at the Community Hall in Port McNeill for the 28th annual Toy and Rod Run, a ride to benefit the Gazette Hamper Fund by providing toys to needy children through the local Lions Clubs. With stuffed animals and other toys strapped to seats, handlebars and cowlings, the riders rolled north to Port Hardy and gathered in an impressive lineup along Market Street in front of Carrot Park in Port Hardy.

Mostly Harley-Davidsons, with the occasional BMW, Yamaha and Honda spotted in attendance, then returned to Port McNeill with several classic cars in tow, to reassemble at the parking lot of Gus’s Bar and Grill.

Next on the schedule was the seventh annual Pig Roast and Stomp, which has featured dinner and live music in this rural neighbourhood since 2006.

“They had done a dance for many years,” said Annie Leblanc, coordinator of the Pig Roast and co-host of the Toy and Rod Run with local rider Dawn Harilstad. “Participation was starting to go down, and we were looking to do something different. I like doing pig roasts; we raise our own pigs here.”

Tickets to the meal and stomp, featuring live music by Chevy Metal, raised additional funds that will be distributed to 101 Squadron Civil Air Search and Rescue and to the North Island chapter of the Royal Marine Search and Rescue.

Before this summer, proceeds had gone to fund equipment purchases at Port McNeill hospital.

Totals were not available Saturday night, but Leblanc said the group normally raises between $2,000 and $2,500.

While several local riders participate, and a healthy number of Hyde Creek neighbours bought tickets to the Pig Roast, Harilstad would like to see more local involvement in the event and fund-raisers.

“It’s supporting the North Island, but support from the North Island isn’t here,” said Harilstad. “These people are coming here from all over the Island.”

Sponsor Steve Drane of Victoria’s Steve Drane Harley-Davidson did his part to coax more local riders, bringing several bikes in a large trailer and setting up a display for information and sales at the Black Bear Resort.

Sunday was given over to the Vancouver Island Harley Owners Group (HOG), which held its annual Poker Run from Port McNeill to Port Alice and Port Hardy.