For 12 years, American Legion Riders Chapter 35 in Chandler, Ariz., has used Thanksgiving weekend to collect toys for needy children. The chapter regularly collects more than $10,000 in toys and just approached $20,000 during its Nov. 24 event at Chandler Harley-Davidson.
It’s a labor of love for the Riders, who donate the toys through Toys for Tots in Chandler; this year the toys will go to the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley for distribution among area children.
“All the toys stay local right in Chandler,” said Past ALR Chapter 35 Director Jim Yilek, who has run the toy drive for nine years. “Everybody likes to give to kids that need help.”
Yilek said Chapter 232 will solicit donations from local businesses and individuals prior to the event, which includes a barbecue, karaoke and live music, and this year came following a 57-mile poker run by Chapter 35’s Legion Riders. The ride is open to the public and includes a registration fee – $20 per rider or $15 with a toy, and $15 per passenger or $10 with a toy.
Yilek also collects $500 donations from each site that serves as a stop on the ride. In the past two years alone Chapter 232 has collected well over $30,000 in toys through the event.
“A lot of kids, their parents can’t afford to do their Christmas,” Yilek said. “This is just something (Chapter) 35 has taken on and continued to do.”