Their backpacks were overflowing with toys as they handed out tiny candy canes to people gathering outside the Columbus Civic Center.
This was the seventh time Melissa Wester, 13, and Julian Wester, 12, of Columbus have made an appearance at the Toys 4 Tots Motorcycle Parade which had its 35th annual run Sunday.
The December event provides toys for the Valley Rescue Mission in Columbus.
It was shortly after noon when hundreds on motorcycle riders drove off from the location headed to Chattahoochee Valley Harley Davidson on Williams Road.
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“It is a time for giving, and we love to give. There are so many who don’t have much,” said Melissa as her brother nodded his head in agreement.
“They collect the toys themselves,” said their father Josh Wester,a Columbus mechanic. “Our family likes helping other families. The best thing about Christmas is giving, and my kids say they will continue doing this after they are grown.”
The toys brought by bikers were loaded on Valley Rescue Mission trucks. Many of the toys were brought from collection boxes which had been placed around the area.
Bikers and their families also purchased t-shirts and other items, with the proceeds also going to Valley Rescue Mission.
“We already have close to 1,000 families who have signed up for holiday assistance,” said Mitzi Oxford, Valley Rescue Mission’s director of development. “These families really rely on Valley Rescue Mission to provide a merry Christmas.”
The main sponsor of the annual event is the Iron Cross Motorcycle Club.
Speaking for the club was Jason Miller, a motorcyclist, who works for Roto-Rooter Plumbing in Columbus.
Miller said several Columbus businesses, especially Dollar General, play a big part in making the event a success.
“The goal is to help the needy children in the Chattahoochee Valley. The club does a lot of charitable work in the community throughout the year, but this is the biggest,” Miller said. “This motorcycle run really brings the community together. I am really proud to be a part of it.”