A Conyers Riding Association member pulls a trailer full of toys through the covered bridge in Rockdale County during the club’s annual Christmas Toy Run. The Conyers Riding Association presents its toy ride on Dec. 7 and the Newton County Sheriff’s Office holds its toy run on Dec. 14. (Special Photo)
For bikers in Rockdale and Newton, it’s the time of year again to dig out the Santa hat, rev up your engines and take a scenic ride through the countryside — all for a good cause. Toy rides to benefit local families in need at Christmastime are scheduled in both counties.
The 23rd Annual Christmas Toy Run, sponsored by the Conyers Riding Association, takes place on Dec. 7, with registration at 9 a.m. and ride at 11 a.m.. The ride leaves the Target at 2195 Hwy. 20, runs for about 45 minutes and ends at the Stone Mountain Harley-Davidson, 900 Dogwood Drive in Conyers.
The Newton County Sheriff’s Office presents its 15th Annual Toy Run on Dec. 14, with the registration at 9 a.m. and ride at 10:30 a.m. The group meets at the Kmart shopping center on the corner of U.S. 278 and Turner Lake Road, rides for about an hour and ends at the Church at Covington, 11975 Hwy. 142 in Oxford.
Both events accept motorcycle enthusiasts from any residence.
“We open it up to anyone with a motorcycle. If you have a motorcycle, we welcome you to come out and participate,” said Newton County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Cortney Morrison.
Cost for the Conyers toy ride is $15 per bike or a toy of equal value and $10 for passengers, or a toy equivalent. Donations of non-perishable canned food items will also be collected.
Proceeds and toys for the Conyers ride go to families referred through Rockdale Emergency Relief, a nonprofit that provides temporary aid with utility bills, rent, food and clothing. Conyers Riding Association member Derrick Goldben said many of the families struggling to pay bills don’t have the resources at the holidays to ensure their children have toys and other gifts.
“RER takes care of that,” said Goldben.
Goldben said the past few years, need for assistance at the holidays has grown even more urgent.
“With unemployment the way it’s been the last couple of years, it’s been hard,” said Goldben. “This year I think will be even tougher.”
Goldben said the ride, dedicated in memory of former Conyers Riding Association member Robert Mayfield who died in a 1996 motorcycle accident, usually attracts between 300 and 400 riders from several surrounding counties and is accompanied by a Rockdale County Sheriff’s Department escort.
At the end of the ride at Harley-Davidson, riders can enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers, drinks and door prizes.
Last year, the ride raised about $8,500 and generated hundreds of toys. This year the goal is $10,000. Often times, riders bring both toys and money, said Goldben.
“We like to help our community,” he said of the riding club, which started in 1980.
The Newton County Sheriff’s Office ride attracts between 150 and 200 riders. Cost is a cash donation of $20 or one unwrapped toy per bike. There is no charge for passengers and riders receive one free T-shirt per entry.
The Newton County Sheriff’s Office will escort the ride and at the ending location, at the Church at Covington, participants can join in a 50/50 raffle and have their picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus for a donation.
Morrison said the ride has had a lot of returning riders and that the sheriff’s office hopes to grow the ride for 2013.
“We have riders that come out every year and they look forward to it and promote it in their social circles,” said Morrison.
The Newton County ride benefits needy families referred through the Salvation Army. Morrison said there’s still time for families who need assistance to sign up. Those interested can visit the Salvation Army at 5193 Washington St. in Covington on Nov. 18 to 22 from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m.