Bikers out in their thousands for the Toy Run
December 07, 2011
The sounds of motorbike engines and exhausts echoed around the town at the weekend when the annual Toy Run made its Yuletide return.
An estimated 2,500 bikers from across Berkshire and beyond went full throttle on Sunday to help bring Christmas cheer to vulnerable children at a Wokingham school.
And just as many people took to the streets to watch tinsel-strewn Triumphs, Harley Davidsons decorated in holly and Suzuki-riding Santas make their way from Foster Wheeler in Shinfield to Barnardo’s High Close School in Wiltshire Road.
A room at the school was almost at bursting point with books, board games, cuddly toys, clothing and action figures donated by participants who had given generously to an event, which is this year celebrating its 26th anniversary.
The gifts will be shared between children at the school, local charities and other projects run by Barnardo’s.
Zoe Latimer, principal at High Close School who was witnessing only her second Toy Run, thanked those who contributed to an event she described as “very special”.
She said: “I cannot tell you how much these gifts mean to those young people.
“We keep some of the gifts at the school and the young people are able to use them through the year as a reward for their good behaviour.
“A great majority of gifts are also given to other people within Barnardo’s and other local charities for young children.
“Every present you have given goes to a child and I promise you it will make a difference to them. Keep coming [to the Toy Run] for many, many years.”
Once all the presents had been safely handed over a number of prizes were handed out to the rider who had travelled the furthest to be at the event – which happened to be Derby, some 130 miles away – and the oldest combined age of a male motorcyclist and bike, which was exactly 132 years.
A bottle of Champagne was also handed out to the oldest combination of female biker and bike, which was in excess of 110 years, before a raffle was held.
The Toy Run was founded in 1985 by Winnersh resident Ben Spiller, a member of the Reading Christian Bikers, and his friend The Reverend Sean Stillman.
The latter told The Wokingham Times how he remembered the inaugural event consisting of a group of friends who left a pub car park and headed to a local hospital armed with gifts – which is in stark contrast to the spectacle experienced at the weekend.
“Today has been great and we have had somewhere in the region of 2,500 people take part, which is possibly more than we expected at the start of the day because of the rain,” he said.
“We have had a huge cross-section of bikers who have travelled far and wide to bring gifts to help the work at Barnardo’s High Close School,, while some are also distributed to other Barnardo’s projects and causes.
“It is not unusual for people to travel in excess of 100 miles to be here and the event has been well supported over the years.
“People are unbelievably generous, but for some this is possibly the main Christmas present they buy if they have not got kids of their own.
“I would like to say a big thank you to the residents of Wokingham who put up with traffic delays and road closures and those who line the streets to cheer on the bikers.”