Big-hearted bikers and Teddy Bears were seen riding around the North Island the Labour Day weekend.
On Saturday, Sept. 5, North Island bikers gathered for the annual Toy Run which saw riders travel between Port McNeill and Port Hardy.
The Toy Run is a way to gather toys and raise funds for local charitable causes.
About 45 bikes turned out for the Toy Run, said organizer Dawn Harilstad.
“It went okay, but everybody was depending on the weather,” Harilstad said.
The items that are collected are donated to the Gazette Hamper Fund.
“There were quite a few toys collected this year,” she said, explaining that each participant brings brand new items.
“It’s Christmas time and we want the kids to feel special,” Harlistad said.
In addition to toys, money is also donated which goes to the Hamper Fund or to purchase medical equipment.
“We bought the local hospitals the first digital baby scales and special blankets for babies that have jaundice,” she said.
Ten years ago, an annual dance was replaced by a charity pig roast and stomp, organized by Annie LeBlanc.
Over the years, “we’ve raised over $20,000 that we’ve donated to the hospital, the search and rescue, and Civil Air (Search and Rescue Association),” LeBlanc said.
“This year we’re going to donate what we can to the Hyde Creek Fire Department,” she said.
Rounding out the weekend’s rolling activities was the annual North Island HOG Poker Run, put on by the North Vancouver Island Harley Owners Group.
A total of 35 participants took part in the Poker Run with prizes ranging from gift certificates, to tools, to helicopter rides.
In a Poker Run, Harlistad explains, each biker gets a card and has to ride to five different stops to collect another card to form a poker hand.
“The person with the highest hand, lowest hand and hidden hand wins,” she said.
While Harlistad and LeBlanc were disappointed by this year’s turnout for the three events, they are amazed by the support from the business community.
“This is where people shine. The businesses are so unbelievable. Everyone that was in the Poker Run got a prize,” said Harlistad.
The Poker Run raises money for Jeneece’s Place in Victoria.
Jeneece Place is a home away from home for families who have to travel to Victoria for their child’s medical care. It is owned and operated by Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island. The house started as the dream of Jeneece Edroff in 2009. Known as “the Penny Girl,” Jeneece’s penny drives brought in over $1.5 million to help children throughout B.C. With that achievement behind her, Jeneece set her sights on a new goal – Jeneece Place.
Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island (then known as the Queen Alexandra Foundation for Children) came on board to help realize Jeneece’s dream and raised $6.5 million to build, furnish, equip, and operate Jeneece Place.
The house opened its doors to guests on Jan. 23, 2012 and is full to capacity almost every night. The house is located a two-minute walk to the entrance of the Victoria General Hospital. In its first year of operations, Jeneece Place hosted 325 families.
The Foundation continues to accept donations to help with operating costs, which are approximately $325,000 per year.