Hundreds of bikers and jeep drivers joined one of northeastern Georgia’s largest toy runs this past Sunday with the same goals: Collect donations for children in need this holiday season -- and have a good time doing it.
The 31st annual Buck Jones Memorial Toy Run, hosted by Don Parkinson and Steve Paras with the Buck Jones Charity Foundation, began at the Cumming Fairgrounds on Sunday, Nov. 20, where participants lined up their vehicles and loaded bags and boxes of donations into two trailers.
After the Fairgrounds, the parade of vehicles stopped at Dawson County’s Veterans Park and concluded at Lumpkin County High School, dropping off donated toys and gift cards for several local agencies: The Place of Forsyth County and Bald Ridge Lodge, K.A.R.E. for Kids, DFCS Lumpkin County and Community Helping Place.
The donations will then be given to area families who need help with Christmas.
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But before leaving the Fairgrounds Sunday morning, Parkinson thanked each of the participants for donating and continuing the legacy of Buck Jones, former Cumming Police Chief.
“None of us would do this if Buck hadn’t had thought of it 31 years ago, so just remember Buck in your prayers,” Parkinson said.
He then invited up Jones’ widow, Treva Jones, to cut the ribbon blocking the exit to the Fairgrounds, officially opening up the passage for the parade to ride to its next stops.
“I just want to say thank you all so much for coming out this year and for the support,” Treva said. “You all know it’s not about us. It’s not about you. It’s about the little children.”
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office deputies, backed by the Forsyth County Fire Department, escorted the lengthy motorcade from the Fairgrounds to Veterans Park and LCHS.
As they arrived in Veterans Park, Dawson volunteers helped haul K.A.R.E.’s allotted bags of donations to a separate truck from the main donation trailer.
Several stations were also ready to go for riders to dig in and enjoy warm chili and cornbread provided by K.A.R.E. and restaurants Miller’s Ale House, Texas Roadhouse and Crave Hot Dogs & BBQ.
Before Sunday’s event, the foundation had already amassed at least $32,000 in donations, which was close to the 2021 amount collected and well on the way to the charity’s $50,000 goal, Paras previously said.
“I didn’t know what to expect with the cold weather, but it’s still more people than last year,” said K.A.R.E. President Rhonda Evans.
Looking around at the participants, event organizer Steve Paras called the response “an amazing turnout” and predicted the charity run was “definitely going to do better than last year.”
“We want to thank all of the clubs that [participated] — the Punishers, the Patriots, the Windows Sons, North Georgia Riders, Blue Knights,” Parkinson said. “All of you guys have done a tremendous job.”
Steven Jett from the North Georgia Mountain Riders reiterated the main reason riders like him commit to the annual toy run. For the past years, Jett has led the procession as its bona fide Santa, taking the time to adorn his bike with holiday cheer before the event.
“I enjoy every bit of it,” Jett said. “I don't have kids myself, so I donate to help these kids in the hard times, especially [during] the past few years.”