There are two things I wish I could do full time. One is to write and the other is to find small businesses, organizations or events that need someone to promote them. The other day I was trying to find out the date of the Columbia’s Christmas Parade and the website hadn’t been updated. (The parade was December 3rd at 7:00pm on the Square in Columbia) Then I began looking for churches that were providing Holiday meals or baskets to the needy. Again, four out of five websites were not updated. I figure for $50.00-100.00 a month I could do that for a company or organization. Keep their website up to date, blog about them, go out into the community and promote and do their social marketing with pictures and sales. I do it for myself, I love doing it- I am good at it- might as well do for others- something I do for myself. Well- a girl can dream.
So- in searching for things to do- one of those events I found, (whose website was current, by the way), was the Toys for Tots Motorcycle run which was held on Saturday November 17th at the S&G Cycle Shop in Columbia. Al Knowles was kind enough to allow me to come and take some pictures and just hang out with the cyclists. Col. Charlie went with me as well as my youngest Grandson, Justin.
My grandfather back in the 60s and 70s had a Harley Davidson. All I remember is that it was big, loud and - as the man had lost half of a lung to cancer- it was a way to force air into them so he could breathe easier. I also remember my Grandmother wouldn’t let me ride with him. But that’s another story for another time.
Toys for Tots back in Florida was a huge- all cars stop dead in the street- deal. Col. Charlie ran restaurants- so when 300 or more cycles ride past the store all decked with tinsel, garland, toys, riders dressed as Santa, elves or (in one memory) a nut cracker soldier. People would pull off the highway to watch, wave and honk and shout as the cyclists drove by in parade form. His customers as well as staff would stop eating to go outside to stand on the balcony and watch the bikers glide by.
Toys for Tots began when Major Bill Hendricks’ wife, Diane, hand crafted a Raggedy Ann doll. Diane asked her husband, a United States Marine Corps Reservist, to deliver the doll to an organization who would give the gift to a needy child at Christmas. Bill discovered that there was no such agency. Diane did what all wives do- told her husband to start one. So he did.
The 1947 pilot project was so successful that the Marine Corps adopted Toys for Tots in 1948 expanding it into a nationwide campaign. That year, Marine Corps Reserve units across the nation conducted campaigns in each community in which a Marine Reserve Center was located. Marines have driven successful nationwide campaigns at Christmas each year since.
Marines have distributed more than 351 million toys for 166 million needy children in 58 years. This charitable endeavor has made U.S. Marines the unchallenged leaders in looking after needy children at Christmas. Toys for Tots Foundation for the past 15 years has supplemented local toy collections with more than 64.5 million toys valued at more than $344 million; plus has provided promotion and support materials valued at over $3.9 million.
2012 was the first year for the run for Columbia at the cycle shop and the turnout was impressive. Thirty-two cycles signed up to ride that beautiful Saturday morning. It was $20.00 to ride or $10.00 with an unwrapped toy to ride with the gang. Starting the day with donuts and coffee at S&G Cycle Shop on Galloway Street in Columbia they had a glorious 100 mile ride to Pulaski to the Powder Keg County Store on Highway 64 for a pit stop. Then they got on the Natchez Trace to end their ride at VFW Post 4969 on Williamsport Pike in Columbia to have barbeque, door prizes and a great feeling of knowing they had earned 3 boxes of unwrapped new toys and donated over $671.00 to the Marine Corp Toys for Tots program. Money that was raised from this ride will stay here in Maury County to help our kids have a great Christmas.
The riders were a fun bunch to hang with for about an hour before the ride. To be a cyclist like these men and women- is not an inexpensive hobby. Some of the bikes cost more than a car- and as they were all spit and polished they were all well-kept. The conversation between the bikers ran from the bikes, to common friends, to internet sites that they thought were funny, to politics, to stories from the veterans of combat, home and family.
It reminded me of years ago when I would travel with my Star Trek clients to the conventions. There is almost always a costume contest and it was always fun. At this particular convention there was a group from the Klingon Fan Club. These guys went all out in their costumes- and me- being an honorary Vulcan in the Star Trek Club (and I must add an Admiral) even though I knew they were all nice guys in makeup- those Klingons where scary!
The clubs all supported a charity and this club actually raised money to protect predatory birds… eagles, hawks and the like. These men (and a couple women) would raise several thousand dollars during the convention. To be part of the club you needed to have lots of money- those car mats they used for the body armor where not cheap! When the makeup came off- those guys were doctors, attorneys, accountants and engineers. When I would meet with them as they arrived at the con they all had beautiful manners, handsome, dignified and sometimes shy.
But… put on the costume and makeup and they were big, veracious, mean, loud and pushy. The conventions usually started Friday night but Saturday night was party night. All the clubs and entities had ‘open houses’ in the suites or various corners of the hotel. The Vulcans had classical music playing, food and green punch. The Romulan’s had weird slimy food, sodas and beautiful dancing girls. The Klingons had pretzels, gummy worms and beer- and the party usually started around 9 a.m. on Saturday. As you can imagine the Klingons where usually close -if not totally- wasted by 8 p.m. when the costume contest started.
One particular costume event the Klingons were seated in the back of a 1000 person auditorium yelling and stomping their feet every time someone came on stage with a Star Fleet uniform on. I was in charge of bringing the contestants from the kitchen where they were all lined up to the judges- which included Michael Dorn who played Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation- and my client that weekend.
I went down the line of contestants where there was a little girl about nine. She was dressed as a princess and crying. I asked her if she was nervous to go in front of all those people. She indicated she wasn’t scared of all of them, just the Klingons. She was afraid they would boo her off the stage.
Walking back out to the auditorium where the men where jeering a Chewbacca character. I found the president of the club. The ‘Captain’ of the crew turned to his men and barked a Klingon phrase to them. They all jerked to attention and he told them to listen to the ‘feeble Vulcan’… (That was me). I told them that their fun was getting out of hand and there was a little girl back there that is crying because of fear of what you guys will do. “In the thought of peace, can you lay off a bit until she can get done with her performance?”
The men growled at me- which meant I was to be dismissed. Being both a woman and a Vulcan was repugnant to the Klingons. I went back to my post but the men had cooled their enthusiasm for the next few contestants. When she timidly made her way to the stage she began her little speech about being a princess and needing a hero to come and rescue her from the dragon. When the men didn’t jeer and tease her, she became louder and more confidant with her performance. Finishing her little presentation she walked around the stage to show her costume to the judges. In the back of the room the Klingons stood up, clapping, cheering, whistling and shouting out encouraging words. She was beaming as she stepped of the stage to sit back with the other contestants.
I went back to the Klingons and bowed my head. “Thank you gentleman,” I said as logical Vulcan as I could muster.
The Captain stood tall before me, “You aren’t bad for a Vulcan- you smell good too, but please don’t swear at my men. They are not gentlemen- we are Klingons.”
I share this story to remind us that whether they be big bad Klingons or motorcycle riders- under all the leather, tattoos, and chrome are some pretty cool people who help those in need at this time of year.
As the Maury County Sheriff pulled out to lead the way for the motorcycles to go through town- children at the playground climbed on the fence and shouted with enthusiasm as the riders pulled out- gunning their motors loudly to start the long ride.
There is still time to donate an unwrapped new toy in any of the Toys For Tots boxes which can be found at Wal-Mart and other businesses around your town. If you wish to contribute toward next year’s drive you may send them to:
PO Box 1872
Columbia TN, 38402
or contact Al Knowles at email@example.com
Have a great Christmas and we will see you in 2013.
History of Toys for Tots came from the Toys for Tots website: http://www.toysfortotsnyc.org/History.html Local information for Columbia Toys for Tots website:
http://www.motorcyclemonster.com/events/toys-for-tots-motorcycle-2012-11-17-Columbia-TN.html OR http://www.MuleTownMCL1286.com/ride.html