COVINGTON - For the 10th straight year, the Newton County Sheriff's Office and the Dixie Star Riders Club will start their engines for a good cause Saturday morning as they help fill Santa's sleigh for needy children in Newton County.
The motorcycle ride through Newton County is a way of raising funds for Christmas toys, and according to NCSO Capt. Marty Roberts, there is more need this year than ever before.
The fee to participate in the event is $10 or a new, unwrapped toy.
"This year we need one as much as we do the other," Roberts said. "Several people have already started calling because of the way things are right now."
The funds and toys will be dispersed through the Newton County Department of Family and Children Services and participating churches, Roberts said, adding that NCSO deputies and employees often make Christmas Eve deliveries to the families in need.
"The kids are what get to you," he said.
Roberts said the emphasis of the campaign is to collect toys for small children up to 10 years of age.
"That's who we target," he said. "But people are welcome to bring things for teens, too."
The ride will start at the Kmart parking lot, with registration beginning at 10 a.m.
"They've been gracious enough to let us use their parking lot for the past several years," Roberts said.
The ride will not leave Newton County and will feature some of the back roadways, ending up at Smiley's restaurant in Porterdale about 12:30 p.m. A lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs will be served at Smiley's, and there will be door prizes and drawings for prizes. The entire event should wrap up about 2 p.m., Roberts said.
Last year's event drew 360 bikers, and Roberts would like to see an even bigger crowd this year.
"A lot of last year's bikes had double people, so we had probably around 400 people who participated. It was by far our largest turnout," he said. "I'm hoping we get that same response this year, if not more."
An addition to this year's effort is to provide meals for some of the families, but Roberts said he hasn't worked out those details yet.
Anyone who would like to help with food or donate toys or money should call 678-625-1416.
"People from all walks of life show up to do this ride," Roberts said. "They put their differences aside, if they have any, and do this for a good cause. It's our way of giving back."
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.