Augusta-area bikers give gifts to military families

It was an unusual scene Sunday afternoon at the Southeastern Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America on Deans Bridge Road.

Men and women in full leather, boots, bandanas and badges rode motorcycles with pink dolls and teddy bears strapped to the back.

“I remember one year,” said Lynn Harshman, the director of Christmas House at Fort Gordon, “A big man in leather stirrups, a leather jacket, and a big beard came walking up with a Barbie dream house. It was great.”

Sunday was the 12th annual Augusta Motorcycle Toy Run to benefit military families. The 193 motorcycles started at the Augusta Museum of History and rode as a group to chapter headquarters at 4010 Deans Bridge Road. Each rider brought at least one toy to donate to the Christmas House.

“We average helping about 300 families a year,” Harshman said. “Somewhere between 800 and 950 children are given three toys and a stocking stuffer.”

So far this year, the Christmas House has approved 338 families are going to re-review about 30 more.

“We want to help everyone that qualifies,” said Harshman. “But we can only help as many families as we can afford.”

Harshman said donations have been down this year, so the motorcycle run could not have come at a better time.

The Christmas House’s goal is to assist service members with a traditional holiday celebration. Even though the name of the organization has Christmas in it, Harshman said members try to time it every year so all faiths can be included.

“We love doing it,” said Al Evans, the secretary of the Southeastern Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We’ve all been there when we had to make Christmas and it was just us.”

Evans said the motorcycle community has been eager to help. The chapter gets calls in August and September from bikers asking when the ride will be. They also collect money to give meals to the veterans.

“We are all one community,” he said. “We are still serving as best we can.”

The reason the chapter teams up with the motorcycle community in Augusta has to do with the vice president, Larry Dodson.

Dodson has been a motorcyclist for years and has ridden with all groups and types.

“Bikers are one of the most patriotic and giving groups you can imagine,” he said. “They will give when they don’t have it to give.”

He said a lot of the bikers are current and former military members.

“They know the sacrifice,” he said.

The parking lot was a sea of motorcycles, from Harley to Suzuki. Bikers from several clubs showed up to support the cause.

“I think it’s another successful year,” said Harshman.

 

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