For the kids at Elizabeth Sanders Home in Oiso, Kanagawa Prefecture, Dec. 13 was a day they won’t forget anytime soon. On that Sunday nearly 80 motorcycles came rolling into their compound carrying more than 150 presents.
An idea born in America, charity toy runs are a popular way for motorcyclists in Western countries to give something back to their communities in the form of helping underprivileged children, usually orphans. Riders, often dressed up in Christmas costumes, bungee the toys they’ve bought to their motorcycles and ride to an orphanage. There they greet the children and pass on the toys, which are usually given to the children on Christmas Day.
The 2009 Tokyo Toy Run was the brainchild of John Gavin, an avid motorcyclist and the owner/administrator of Gaijinriders.com, a popular Internet forum for foreign motorcyclists in Japan. Having often taken part in toy runs in his native Australia, Gavin wants to begin a similar tradition here. “Participating in Toy Runs back in Oz was one of the highlights of riding back there. I hope it can become an annual event here,” says Gavin.
The success of this year’s event caught Gavin, fellow Aussie Pete Wilkinson and other organizers by surprise. Spread by word of mouth, news of the toy run reached many riders in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures. Gavin says he was expecting maybe 20 or so motorcycles to gather at Tokyo Tower on the morning of Dec. 13. “By 8.00 a.m. the bikes started rolling in. By 8.15 a.m. I think we had about 50 and by the time we headed off, it was up to 65 or so. I was blown away and realized I need a new word that surpasses awesome.”
Judging by their wide smiles, laughter and shouts of glee and excitement, the children at Elizabeth Sanders Home felt likewise. “I think we have made all the kids down there very happy this Christmas, not just with all the gifts but with the time we spent with them even if it was just for a few hours,” said Englishman Ivan Hardie after the event.
This year the event had only one corporate sponsor, Doremi Japan, the company that Gavin heads, but Gavin would like to make the Tokyo Toy Run an annual event and hopes the success of this year’s toy run will help attract more sponsors next year. “Having more sponsors will enable us to bring Christmas and New Year’s cheer to even more children,” he says.