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23rd Annual Toys for Kids Ride

Written by  November 30, 2004

On Sunday, November 7, many of Santa’s helpers loaded toys on their motorcycles and headed for Blue Valley Park in Independence, Missouri. The event was the annual Toys for Kids Ride sponsored by Freedom of Road Riders (F.O.R.R.). The price of admission was one toy and one canned good. With the benefit of unseasonably warm weather, over 125 riders enjoyed the short ride from the park to the Sunshine Center School; this year’s beneficiary organization. Clubs joining F.O.R.R. on the ride included several H.O.G. Chapters, Christian Motorcyclists Association, Star Riders, Kingdom Riders, Ararat Cycles, Zodiacs, Southern Cruisers, Lucky 11, and the Harley-Davidson Employee Riders Association.

Prior to the ride, I had an opportunity to visit with J.R. DeGraffenreid who chairs F.O.R.R. District 4.

CC: Please tell us about this event.
J.R.: It’s the Toys for Kids Ride with Freedom of Road Riders. It’s put on by District 4 of F.O.R.R. that encompasses North Kansas City down to Grandview and over to the Knob Knoster and Clinton areas. This is our 23rd year to sponsor this run. This year we’re going to the Sunshine Center in Independence on the Square.

CC: Is that a different charity from past years’ rides?
J.R.: Yes, we try to spread it around and go into the various communities where we live and ride. We went to the Division of Family Services for the past couple of years. This year we decided to change.

CC: November weather is pretty unpredictable. You must spend some time praying for good weather.
J.R.: That we do. It’s great this year! Last year was cold and overcast, and the numbers were down some. Only the hard-core bikers rode. We tell them to come on out even if they have to come in the cages.

CC: Thanks, J.R.

Prior to our departure from the park, J.R. briefed the riders concerning the route and provided some details about the Sunshine Center. He announced that the children would not be present on that day but would receive their gifts during a visit from Santa at a later date. After a cross-town ride lasting about fifteen minutes the group arrived at the center where they unloaded gifts and enjoyed pizza and beverages. The pile of toys on one side of the room and the stack of canned goods on the other were impressive. Someone had even donated a sled. It was a nice gift, but I, for one, hope it isn’t put to use any time soon.

Executive Director, Beth Grubb, provided more information about the center.

Beth: The Sunshine Center has been here for 29 years. We have 116 kids, half of whom have special needs of some sort. The other half we call typically developing children. About 70 percent of them are from low-income families. We have a lot of DSS subsidies. There are a number of foster children. We have special educators who work with the children. We have occupational, physical, and speech therapists. A full-time nurse is on our staff. Several kids require feeding tubes or catheterization. There are kids with colostomies and tracheotomies. We serve kids from birth to age 21. We have a private school for children who have reached school age, but our primary focus is from birth to three years.

CC: How large is your staff?
Beth: Counting teachers, therapists, office and janitorial people, it’s about 50.

CC: How much do you depend on donations?
Beth: We have a huge dependence on donations and grants from foundations. I would say 15 to 20 percent of our budget, and that’s a lot.

CC: How can people get in touch with you?
Beth: They can call the center at 816-833-2088.

CC: What do you think of these bikers?
Beth: They are fantastic! I really love this. We have another motorcycle ride in September that’s three years old, but it’s much smaller-maybe 50 bikers or so. This is really wonderful! This will really help with the Christmas season. We always put together some gift baskets for needy families in the area. For the Sunshine Center children we have a big Christmas party, and they will really appreciate these gifts.

CC: Thanks, Beth. Happy holidays to you, your staff, and especially the children.

Story and photos by Stripe