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Third annual Country Santa toy run draws record crowd

By Julie Vickery, Crescent News Service
11/2001

Some 300 bikers met in Easley Saturday to take part in the third annual Country Santa toy run, making this year's ride the largest one to date.

Bikers began congregating in the Kmart/Bi-Lo parking lot before noon. By I p.m., the parking lot was a maze of motorcycles, people, and of course, toys.

Toy ride participants roared into town with gifts for children of all ages. By the time they hit the road, they had collected even more toys. Some accepted donated items from passers-by. Others paid a quick visit to nearby stores to purchase additional items. Among those joining this year's toy run was Easley resident Donna Gardner. Though a newcomer to the Country Santa toy run, Gardner is no stranger to the concept of lending a hand. She's previously ridden for both Toys for Tots and Prevent Child Abuse Pickens County.

"Any time the weather's decent, we try to get involved," she said. " We do all we can to help, especially for children, especially at this time of year."

Judy McCurly nodded in agreement. "Maybe it's because we're all a bunch of kids at heart, but most of us would do anything to help a child," she said.

As the motorcyclists poured into the shopping center, it became clear just how far they were willing to go to help out. They came not only from the immediate area, but also from Anderson, Greenville, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach and even Charleston. Still others traveled down from North Carolina or up from Georgia.

"We were hoping for our biggest year ever, and we got it," said organizer Theresa Stafford. "This is by far the most we've ever had."

This year's toy run carried riders through Easley, through Liberty, and on toward Norris before they reached their final destination of Redneck Engineering. There Buddy Cox (better known as Country Santa) collected the toys, while bikers went on to enjoy well deserved BBQ sandwiches and soft drinks.

But while this year's ride was the biggest to date, organizers are already hoping for an even better turn‑out next year.

"Eventually, I want to see this grow to the point that we're as big as Greenville and Anderson," Stafford said. "One thing that's helped this year is the weather. This year's run is earlier than last, it's a lot warmer, and a lot more people are getting involved.  Seeing the kind of response we are getting, we are probably going to keep the toy run around this time of the year from now on."

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