The first Sunday in December can be brutally cold and miserable; with rain and snow or sleet and ice. Wind chills can cut through your under amour and bite the feeling out of your fingers. But this December 2nd was not a typical winter Sunday in Chicago. It was a balmy 62 degree day and over 45,000 motorcycles hit the pavement for the 35th Annual Toys for Tots Motorcycle Run.
I left my house in the ‘burbs bright and early. My Sporty carried me to 79th and Western to line up for my very first Toys for Tots Parade. I met up with my biker buddies and after some tinsel and candy cane decorations were applied to our bikes – we waited our turn to take the 20 mile ride north up Western Avenue. At the end of our ride there would be semi trailers and marines collecting our toy donations, music, food, and our fellow bikers basking in the realization that they(we) had just done an amazingly unselfish thing for the benefit of an underprivileged child somewhere in our city.
We had some waiting to do before the ride began – a record number of participants were revving their engines and waiting to make history with the largest TFT Parade in Chicago’s 35 year history. When we were ready to go – the adrenaline rushed and the 15 women in our group rode side by side with so much pride. The feeling of being a family when we ride together is about as real as it gets – unconditional love and support carries us from start to finish every time we have the good fortune of sharing the road with each other.
My girl Dottie had a skateboard tied to her back as she rode her pink Sporty through the neighborhoods lining Western Avenue from 79th Street to Addison. Tamale flashed her fishnets and Christine rocked her Santa hat as strangers photographed our group of amazingly eclectic and powerful women. There were families and friends lining the streets – American Flags waving and people cheering as we followed our Marine Escort through intersections and over bridges to our destination. We were a group of women – in all our celebrated diversity – united for the same reason. To give something back – to be bad ass biker girls motivated to do something for others – without expecting a damn thing in return.
The United States Marine Corp Toys for Tots Foundation declared that the Chicago TFT Motorcycle Parade is the oldest and largest TFT motorcycle run held anywhere in the United States. That says so much about our city and our biker brothers and sisters. Chicago’s Parade also happens to be the nation/s largest contributor of toys to the USMCR TFT Program. The largest contributor in the country – how phenomenal is that??
It is not often that we are humbled in life. It is not a regular occurrence that we can be a part of something so much bigger than our own lives and circumstance. It is rare and good when we can make the effort to take the action that just might make someone else’s life a little better – their burden a little lighter and in this case – a child’s Christmas a little brighter. You better believe I will be back again next year to do it all over again.
FYI: Over the years, Marines have established close working relationships with social welfare agencies, churches and other local community agencies which are well qualified to identify the needy children in the community and play important roles in the distribution of the toys. The toys collected on Sunday’s run will all benefit children in and around the Chicago land area.
For more information on Toys for Tots, please visit: http://www.toysfortots.org/
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About K. Guzman
Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.