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Leather-clad bikers again show kindness for Shriners kids

by: David F. Ashton,

'We laugh at the snow! Ha, ha, ha! Welcome riders,' calls out Michael Friend, coordinator of the 28th Annual Shriners ABATE Toy Run, through a megaphone.

He's welcoming riders of motorbikes - ranging from huge Harley-Davidson 'hogs' to Vespa motor scooters - as they pull into the TriMet maintenance lot on S.E. 17th Avenue in Brooklyn on Saturday, December 1st.

Although it's less than an hour before the scheduled departure time, the lot isn't quite as full as years in the past. 'They're worried about icy roads,' comments Friend. 'But look at them come in, now that they see that the weather is holding.'

As inbound two-wheeled traffic streams into the staging area, Friend comments to us, 'We already have about a thousand bikes here. It's going to be a good ride up to the Shriner's Hospital today.'

This is how many of the area bikers kick off their Christmas season, Friend tells us. 'We've been doing this to benefit the children up at the hospital for 28 years. It's something we look forward to.'

The best part, for him, Friend confides, is seeing all kinds of motorbike riders come together for a cause. 'This is the one time when you'll see hard-core Harley riders next to motor-scooter riders, side by side. We all get together and do something positive for the community.'

Helping Friend on this day is his buddy, and past event coordinator, Geoff White. 'My first toy run was 21 years ago, and I haven't missed one yet. The first year I did it, there were forty of us. It's really grown.'

The best part for White is 'seeing how the kids respond to the gifts and love we show them. It is the one time you'll see hard-core bikers with tears of joy in their eyes.'

Bikers raise big bucks

None of the bikers there looks more 'hard-core' than Edd Dahl, especially when he's astride his '05 Heritage Softtail Harley.

'It's more than toys,' Dahl elaborates. 'Last year, our group, ABATE of Oregon, raised and spent over $35,000 buying wheelchairs and adaptive living tools for the kids. Until we started raising money, some kids waited up to six years for a power wheelchair.'

Dahl adds that cynics might say the bikers' generosity is a publicity stunt to help improve their image. 'Doing this for nearly 30 years, it's pretty clear we do this because we love the kids.'

Their biggest fundraiser is a raffle. This year, Dahl says, the grand prize is a brand new Harley-Davidson.

Bus full of teddies

Some bikers have toys strapped to their bikes; others hand their toys to Shriner and TriMet driver Dannye Adamson to pack in his bus, for the trip up 'Pill Hill'.

'Isn't it wonderful?' remarks Adamson, 'I get to drive this bus, loaded with toys, up to the hospital. I'm kind of sad this will be my last Toy Run as a TriMet driver. I'm retiring soon. To see the happiness their kindness brings gives you a great feeling.'

About noon, on Saturday, December 1st, the gate opened - and the roar of a thousand motorcycles filled the air, as these bad-ass bikers rode off, northbound on S.E. 17th to Powell, and then west across the Ross Island Bridge enroute to Marquam Hill, on their annual mission of kindness and generosity.