Motorcyclists ride for toys

CONYERS -- The season of giving kicks into high gear on Dec. 5 with the 19th Annual Christmas Toy Run organized by the Conyers Riding Association.

The event will benefit Rockdale Emergency Relief and collect toys for children in need for the holiday season. The motorcycle ride has become a local tradition that has grown over the years and typically attracts more than 400 riders each year, said Bill Nash of the Conyers Riding Association.

"Response has been good so far, and we're keeping our eye on the weather," he said. "I was just watching the news, and it will be a little bit cool, but sunny, and that brings them out. Nobody's afraid of the cold but very much afraid of clouds and rain."

The Toy Run will start in front of the new Target on Ga. Highway 20 S. at 9 a.m. with sign-in for participants and toy drop-off. The ride begins at 11 a.m. The riders travel through north Rockdale County, including the covered bridge on Harrison Mill Road, before coming back to Conyers.

Nash said admission will be either $15 per bike or an unwrapped toy of equal value. For passengers, admission is $10 or an unwrapped toy.

An escort for the entire ride will be provided by the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office.

The toy run ends at Granite Mountain Harley Davidson on Dogwood Drive with hamburgers, hot dogs and refreshments provided by the Men's Group at Smyrna Presbyterian Church.

Drawings for items donated by local merchants will be held at Granite Mountain at the end of the ride. Nash said they will also auction off a framed American flag that was flown during several medical evacuation missions in Afghanistan.

The event is one of the biggest drives for Rockdale Emergency Relief and typically raises $10,000 for the nonprofit organization's winter holiday season.

Rockdale Emergency Relief provides short-term, emergency financial assistance to help families that live or work in Rockdale County and bridges the gap in needs that other assistance programs cannot meet. In addition to financial assistance, RER runs the community food bank.

Nash said the economic recession has made the need for RER's services even greater this year, but he said the turnout for the Toy Run has always been a testament to the community as a whole coming together.

"We're really hoping we can bring everybody out," Nash said. "We know the economy is rough on everybody. We hope the community can continue to give. We welcome donations from non-motorcyclists, as well, like canned goods or donations by check."

The Christmas Toy Run is held in honor of Robert Mayfield, a life-long Rockdale County resident and founding member of the Conyers Riding Association. Mayfield died in a motorcycle accident on Salem Road in 1996.

For more information, e-mail conyersridingassoc@comcast.net.