More than $100,000 worth of toys raised
By Chris Fish
BREVARD -- The holiday season is looking a lot brighter for children in Brevard County this year, and it is all thanks to thousands of motorcyclists.
On Sunday, Dec. 2, the 31st annual ABATE of Florida Toy Run raised more than $100,000 worth of donated toys for local children in need, which will be distributed to Shriners Hospitals for Children, Cocoa Police Department, South Brevard Sharing Center and the American Veterans Empowerment Team Project, benefitting families of Patrick Air Force Base troops.
More than 6,000 motorcyclists, each stowing a donated toy on their bikes, kicked off the toy run at noon at the Merritt Square Mall. As onlookers of all ages watched, the parade of bikers then traveled across the county through Merritt Island, Cocoa, Rockledge and Palm Shores before ending at Wickham Park in Melbourne.
Aside from its crowd-pleasing popularity, ABATE Brevard County Chapter President Mike Pope said the run is a great benefit to those less fortunate in Brevard County.
ABATE of Florida, which stand for American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, is a nonprofit organization made up of motorcycle enthusiasts from all walks of life. The group's primary goal is to lobby and educate the government and the general public to promote motorcycling in a safe and positive image, according to www.abateflorida.com.
"A lot of children in the community wouldn't receive toys if it wasn't for the toy run," he said. "It's a good community event, and it's our chapter's fundraiser for the year."
Mr. Pope, who has been president of the chapter for five years and organized the toy run for six, said the event is even more important now, as the organization lost state funding this past year.
The toy run serves a dual purpose, Mr. Pope said, of collecting toys for children, as well as raising funds for the chapter's safety and awareness programs.
Mr. Pope said any individuals interested in learning more about motorcycle safety are invited to the ABATE chapter meeting on the first Tuesday of every month at 241 Peachtree St., Cocoa.
For more information about ABATE or the toy run, call (321) 636-9720.