Cape Town - In 1983 South Africa was a very different place. A charity motorcycle run of fewer than a hundred riders was a big deal, attracting unwelcome attention from the authorities because the organisers insisted that it was open to all riders and that vulnerable children of all sizes and colours would benefit.
Thirty-four years later we have a democratic government - but the gap between the haves and the have-nots is the widest in the world, and there are still thousands upon thousands of children in this country who have never had a toy of their own.
That’s where you and I come in, no matter who we are or what we ride, or whether we have children of our own. That we ride at all makes us members of a privileged elite - not one of means but of true freedom. And it is how we use that freedom that makes bikers special.
Africa's largest motorcycle charity event
Sunday 26 November will see the 35th edition of the Toy Run, Africa’s largest motorcycle charity event. In at least 19 centres across the country, riders will gather by the thousand, their machines festooned with toys - dolls, sports kit, toy cars and thousands upon thousands of plush toys - not for nothing is the international symbol of the Toy Run a teddy bear!
And then the earth will literally tremble as thousands of engines start up together for the mass ride, an important facet of the Toy Run for many reasons. Not only does it remind the public that motorcyclists are there (all riders complain that even the biggest, shiniest and loudest machines are invisible to other road users, especially pedestrians) it reminds them that bikers care about those less privileged, and it reminds the riders that we are a family, a community, and that communities are judged by how they treat children and animals.
But most of all, it brings the riders together to donate toys of all sorts, which will be distributed either on the day or over the next several days, depending on the size of the Toy Run, to children in homes, institutions and grassroots church and community day-care programmes, children whose parents, if they have parents at all, are too busy battling to put food on the table to worry about toys, children who will not receive a Christmas gift this year unless you or I give it to them.
Ubuntu at its loudest
It’s also a good excuse for a party - and bikers do know how to party! - with live music, food and drink and all sorts of biker memorabilia on sale, a celebration of ubuntu at its loudest, where bikers welcome members of the public, who come bringing toys to show that they too care about disadvantaged children.
South Africa’s biggest Toy Run, in Gauteng, is actually five mass rides, all converging on the Benoni Northerns Sports Club in Brodigan Road, Northmead. They’ll be starting from:
Silverstar Casino in Muldersdrift
Carnival City Casino in Brakpan
Engen Blockhouse 1 Stop South on the R59 at Randvaal
Irene Village Mall in Centurion
And a ladies-only Run from Rivonia Auto Parts in Paulshoff!
Members of the public are welcome to join in at the end venue - just bring toys! Further information from Graeme Cartwright on 0834632761.
The 2017 Cape Town Toy Run will start from the Grand Parade in the City Centre at 10am and from Grand West Casino in Goodwood at 10.30; both rides will converge on the Killarney International Raceway in Potsdam Road.
While taking part in the Toy Run mass ride and donating a toy (or toys - few riders bring just one!) will always be free, the entertainment venue at the end venue has become very expensive to stage; musicians, security staff and other legal requirements have to be paid for, and the riders are being asked to contribute R30 each towards the costs.
Members of the public are welcome to attend at Killarney, donate toys and meet the riders. If you enjoy loud music, junk food and cold beer, join us in the entertainment area for a party you will remember for all the right reasons.
But however you feel about being asked to pay for a event that for the first 32 years of its existence was always free, it’s not really about the party - it’s about the children. After the 2016 Cape Town Toy Run, distributions manager Rodney Ford had to tell the representatives of hundreds of child-care entities that there weren’t enough toys to go round.
The man in the top hat is pointing his finger - the Toy Run needs you! Further information from Mike Clark on 0832272676.
MORE TOY RUNS THROUGHOUT SOUTHERN AFRICA
Beaufort West: Julian Muller - 082 774 0012
Bloemfontein: Marlene Van Pletzon - 083 433 5021
Durban: Les Boes - 083 487 6846
East London: Chantel Walker - 0846450530
Garden Route: South Western District Motorcycle Association, Rowan - 078 581 0721
Kimberley: Flip Khun - 082 565 9795
Klerksdorp: Spikes Lawrence - 082 461 2507
KZN South Coast: Char Faasen - 082 823 1436
Limpopo (Polekwane): Julia Todd - 083 233 8399
Limpopo (Tzaneen): Jaco van Wyk - 082 459 1668
Limpopo: Jan Venter - 082 373 3313
Mossel Bay: Julian Muller - 082 774 0012
Nelspruit: Bernadette Woodford - 082 308 2624
Port Elizabeth: Tony Halket - 082 568 0682
Queenstown: Kevin Lecruse - 0832652281
Richards Bay: Jaco Viviers - 082 320 6188
Van der Bijl Park: Adolf Klingenberg - 072 271 4070
Windhoek, Namibia: Christo De Klerk - 00264 81 237 1550