By Bobbie Poynter / Community Editor
Thunder will rumble Saturday as the 15th annual T.J. Memorial Toy Run takes off for a scenic ride through the fall Tri-County countryside.
Over the years, the toy run has taken off with as few as seven bikes to as many as 65.
A Christmas fundraiser that originally began in 1998 as the Wildman Cycles Toy Run, the program originally raised money to buy toys for the new pediatric ward at Baptist Regional Medical Center. The name of the run was changed to the T.J. Memorial Toy Run in 2001 in honor of T.J. Nichols, a friend of the organizers, who died Sept. 30, 2000, in a motorcycle accident.
As much as $2,000 is raised every year by the run’s organizers, Mary “Sugar” and Bill “Wildman” Miller. In the past, the participants would end their ride with a shopping trip to pick out toys for the upcoming Christmas party.
“We’ve given out toys to as many as 125 kids each Christmas through Corbin’s United Effort,” said Miller. “CUE does all the hard work, taking the families’ applications and making sure the toys are given to those children that really need them.”
Judy Nichols, widow of the fundraiser’s namesake, has participated in the run since its inception; however, she has always ridden in a vehicle, rather than a motorcycle. Nichols has been partially paralyzed ever since hitting a deer with a motorcycle in 1998. This will be only the second year that she will be actually riding a motorcycle in the ride.
“He (T.J.) loved going on this ride,” she said. “The monies raised may be the only chance some children may have to make their Christmas. I give God the praise and glory for it all, because without Him this ride would never have taken place, and I personally wouldn’t even be here to ride in it.”
Registration for the T.J. Memorial Toy Ride begins at noon Saturday and riders will take off around 1 p.m. After the ride, they will all meet back at Tri-County Cycle for a barbecue, raffle and door prizes.
“You don’t need to be a member of a motorcycle club to ride with us,” said “Sugar” Miller. “You don’t even need to ride a Harley. Whatever you ride, just come out and enjoy the day with us.”
Anyone wanting more information about the annual ride can call 528-4839 or 865-712-7686.
By Bobbie Poynter / Community Editor
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