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Bear-bearing bikers take new path to Shriners Hospital — through Sellwood

by: David F. Ashton Yes, it’s Santa – riding a decked-out bike, and leading the Shriners’ Hospital van across the Sellwood Bridge!

Seeing thousands of leather-clad bikers riding through Westmoreland and Sellwood on the same day as the 'Decemberville' local sale event, Saturday, December 3, came as quite a shock to those who weren't aware that the 2012 motorcyclists of the Shriners' Hospital Toy Run had chosen a new route to Marquam Hill this year.

'This is our 32nd year of bringing toys to the children at the Shriners' Children's Hospital,' grinned Chaplain Mike Friend, one of the annual event's organizers. 'This is how bikers and motorcyclists kick off Christmas.'

Whether or not affiliated with the sponsoring cycle club - A.B.A.T.E. of Oregon, Inc., an organization that promotes motorcycle awareness, education, safety, and liberty, through community involvement and legislative action - anyone on a motorcycle is invited to participate in the annual ride.

As in past years, the rumble of Harleys and other heavy steel could be heard for blocks around the staging area - the TriMet bus facility at S.E. 17th Avenue just north of Holgate Boulevard. With clear weather that day this year, participants came by the thousands.

A full-sized TriMet bus was packed, front to back, with new toys, destined for the Portland Shriners' Hospital for Children.

The toys collected for the children are loved year-round at Shriners' Hospital, providing comfort for the young patients, as well as the siblings who may visit them. 'So many toys are donated, there's an entire room set aside within the hospital called the 'ABATE Toy Room',' confided Friend.

When we spotted him this year, amid hundreds of motorcycles, Barry Bede - Chairman of the Board of Shiners' Hospital for Children in Portland - looked a little like Santa himself, with a big bag of toys in his hand.

'These people have great open hearts,' Bede smiled, as he handed off toys to be placed in the bus. 'It takes about a month and a half to sort through all these toys. And, this event also raises thousands of dollars for the hospital. We can't do it by ourselves; we need help from others. All these kind people demonstrate their concern by helping out.'

A little after noon, the bikers headed out - with Santa Claus leading the Shriners' bus - heading not north to Powell as usual, but this year south toward Sellwood, and eventually over the Sellwood Bridge on their way up to the Shriners' Children's Hospital on Marquam Hill.