Toy Run hits road for 20th year<br><i>Riders bring Christmas to hundreds of children</i>

Staff photo by Dean H. Borgwardt

RIDERS in the 2003 Verde Valley Toy Run cruise down Main Street in Old Town. The event funds toys for low-income children.

Hundreds of toys for area children will ride in on the good will and generosity of motorcyclists and hot rodders.

Sunday, for the 20th year, the Verde Valley Toy Run will raise money and collect toys for children who otherwise might go without a Christmas present.

Last year, toys were distributed to 650 children through Catholic Social Service; another 119 went to kids through Verde Valley Healthy Families; and more toys found kids through other local organizations. The toy run donated all of those gifts.

Rose Ortiz, the run coordinator for nine years, expects more than 500 motorcycles and hot rods to participate in this year's event.

Participants will gather in Fry's Shopping Center parking lot Sunday morning. At 10:30 a.m. they will cruise out of the parking lot in a parade that will make a circle via Arizona 89A to Clarkdale then back through Old Town Cottonwood on Main Street before heading out 89A to Cornville.

From there, riders will make three stops: the Old Corral in Cornville; PJ's Pub in the Village of Oak Creek; and Arizona Customs in Sedona.

The public is invited to attend the Toy Run party at the Verde Valley Fairgrounds from 12:30 to 6 p.m. Admission to the fairgrounds is $20 plus an unwrapped, new toy. Participants in the Toy Run also pay $20 plus an unwrapped, new toy. The cost of admission for the public and participants earns them a T-shirt, dinner and admission to the bike and car show at the fairgrounds.

Popular area band Limbs Akimbo will entertain. Raffles and drawings will be held, and silent and live auctions will be featured.

"It's a big deal," Ortiz said. "Catholic Social Service has told us that without the toy run they wouldn't have a Christmas program. All the money, after costs, goes to buy toys."

Ortiz said many of the riders bring in more than just their admission fee. It has become a tradition for some of the riders to seek sponsors for cash or merchandise donations.

"Some of them raise a lot of money," Ortiz said.

Prizes are given for first, second and third place among the riders based upon the amount of money raised. Last year, Bob Gates won first place with $2,354; Mark Wolfe took second with $2,245; and Camille Severson came in third with $2,030.

The Toy Run drew 469 participants in 2003 and raised a total of $21,277 in cash, prizes and merchandise.

Everything is converted into toys for kids. "We do not give anything but toys," Ortiz said.

She said she shops locally, mostly at Wal-Mart. "Last year, for every 10 bikes we bought, Wal-Mart gave us five."

"The proceeds of this event benefits the children of the Verde Valley," Ortiz said.

The owner of Rose's Mobile Food Service, Ortiz caters and donates the dinner for the event.

Anyone who cannot attend but wishes to make a donation may drop off cash or toys at Endless Summer Tanning Salon at 56 S. Main St., Cottonwood, or at Rose's Mobile Food Service at 324 S. 15th St. in Cottonwood.

For information, call Rose at (928) 634-5640.

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