Toys For Tots (Moto17Jax 2017)

Toys For Tots (Moto17Jax 2017)

It’s Here!!!

I have been looking forward to this ride for over a year.  Last year the Toys For Tots ride was December 10th.  Moto17Jax didn’t exist yet.  Back then it was First Coast Friends & Riders.  I was in Atlanta getting familiar with a new client’s operations and systems configuration.  I had purchased my Suzuki but it wouldn’t be delivered until the 19th.  I knew the Toys ride was happening on the 10th and really wished I could participate.  I mean – for me – kids are what Christmas is about.  When you aren’t one, and you don’t have any around you, it all seems pretty boring and pointless.  So you end up going out and buying yourself a gift.  Like a new motorcycle (“I wish ME a Merry Christmas – I wish ME a Merry Christmas…”).  Not THIS year.  Well; I did buy myself a new motorcycle; but I also did participate in the Toys For Tots ride.

So – I needed to buy a gift.  The gift guidelines stated;  new toy, unwrapped, for boy and/or girl, ages 1 through 12, in the original packaging, NO toy guns, NO food.  For me this was a NO-brainer.  Good thing since mine doesn’t seem to be working nearly as good as it used to (I hear all of you out there saying it was never that great). 

Well, we are a motorcycle group.  Right?  We ride bikes.  And, some of the group ride trikes.  Right?  When I think about being a kid I remember a lot of bikes and trikes.  I remember spending countless hours on a bike.  Close your eyes for a minute and think back.  Think about the school playground, the little league field, the community swimming pool, or just the front yard of your house when your friends were over.  What do you see?  I see bikes.  Bikes in bike racks.  Bikes on their kickstands.  Bikes laying on their sides.  Back then a bike was, what a car would later become.  More than just transportation.  It was independence.  It was freedom.  It was the ability to go your own way in the world and become your own person.  Not just your parent’s kid.  And, as you would expect, with that independence came responsibility.  Our parents weren’t likely to chauffeur us everywhere.  So, we were expected to get ourselves where we needed to be, safely and on time.  Yes, bikes were good for everyone.  And don’t even get me started on the health benefits.

Me on my trike with my brother and his bike. (circa 1957)

So, I needed to take a bike or a trike, and a bike won’t fit on my bike – so – a trike it is.  Yeah, I know, times have changed.  Well, I haven’t.  So I decided to give a kid a gift that could get them started on the road to an independent, responsible, adventurous life.  Now, if you’re going to put that type of burden on a tricycle, it damn well better be a good one.  It, like a Timex, needs to be able to take a licking and keep on ticking.  It needs to be made out of steel, like ours.  None of that plastic crap.  I still remember one terrifying afternoon on a tricycle that my grandmother had ridden as a child.  But that’s another story.  Suffice it to say that sometimes we take that freedom thing too far.  But those too, are valuable life learning experiences.  I’m confident that getting an initial exposure to PTSD, at the age of 2, made me more resistant later in life.  So – decision made – I was off to acquire said tricycle.

Once at the store, I was immediately faced with exactly what I had feared.  Apparently people don’t let their kids make their own way in the world anymore.  At least not before the age of 6 or 7.  There were no tricycles to be found, not even a plastic one, and none of the bikes were smaller than a 20″.  Several days later, just when I was about to surrender to the devastation of the participation trophy culture, Lori called.  She had not only found a tricycle, it was a Radio Flyer!  An actual, honest to GOD, steel tricycle from the days of my youth.  It took a couple of trips to the store to get one with all the parts, they make them in China now, not Chicago, but eventually we had our very own Radio Flyer tricycle.  The kid is going to LOVE it.  All that was left to do was wait for the day of the ride and attach the tricycle to the motorcycle so it would stay in place.  All was right with the world again.  

(A word of caution.  If you do this yourself, DON’T put the tricycle under the Christmas Tree.  It makes it feel like Christmas back when you were, or had, a kid.  It so significantly changes the effect of the tree, you’re going to be tempted to keep it as a Christmas decoration.  I was beginning to get concerned that Lori may hide it on the morning of the ride.)

The tricycle DID make the ride.  I tend to stay up late, while Lori tends to get up early.  So I lashed the tricycle to the motorcycle the night before the ride.

I sincerely hope, that like millions of members of my generation did over 60 years ago, the little boy or girl who receives the tricycle, finds countless hours of joy, peddling their way along all of the grand adventures their imagination can conceive.

The Ride

At 10:30am, 15 motorcycles were lined up at our usual meeting spot in Fleming Island.  They were ready to carry the 18 individuals, and their gifts, the short, 45 miles, to the Toys For Tots drop-off location.  In this case, the Fire & Rescue Station on Pennsylvania Ave., in Jacksonville, FL.  As the crow flies, we were only 19 miles from our destination.  But we wanted to feel like we got a bit of a ride, so the route was essentially a large “U” shape.

The route to the fire station was basically 3 straight legs.  First, south on US-17 to the northern edge of Green Cove Springs.  Then, 3 streets around Green Cove to get to SR-16.  There we headed due west on SR-16 to the northwest corner of Camp Blanding, where we angled northwest up to US-301.  Once there we turned north northeast on US-301 to the fire station.

The route for this ride was unusual by Moto17Jax standards.  Typically, our rides are 80-140 miles out to the destination, often on the west coast of Florida, and include as many twisting country roads as possible.  That’s one of the many things which attracts most of us to the group.  It seems that most local groups ride 20-40 miles and then spend the day in a bar or at a car show or some similar event.  Moto17Jax rides.  However, since Toys For Tots distributes the toys in the community where they are collected, and we want to support disadvantaged children in Jacksonville, we needed to keep the entire route local to Jax.

It seemed like we had just gotten started when we arrived at the drop-off.  Everyone carried their gifts into the station house, one of the firemen said a short blessing, the firemen graciously gave rides in the fire truck to all who wanted, we got everyone together in front of the truck and took a group photo and then we hit the road again.  Now on our way to lunch, we took yet another short, straight, ride.  Only 20 miles south on US-301, to Downtown Grill in Stark, FL.

As usual, following an hour or two eating and socializing, we would part company.  Each taking their own route home, or to the location of their afternoon plans.  It was a beautiful day, spent on an enjoyable and personally rewarding activity, with people I know and respect, and who, over the many rides of 2017, have become good friends.

Downtown Grill (Stark, FL)

Rick’s Downtown Grill, located in historic downtown Starke, is a full service bar and restaurant.  While the Downtown Grill specialized in dinner, their menu includes a broad range of American Contemporary Cuisine, suitable for any occasion or appetite.  In addition to seated indoor dining and drinks, the Downtown Grill also provides banquet/meeting space, outdoor seating, delivery, carry out and event catering.  

The Downtown Grill is locally owned and operated with live local music – and – is one of the few dog-friendly restaurants in the area.  Visitors to the restaurant have access to a private lot nearby or can park on the street. Should you prefer to pedal over, bicycle parking is also provided.  Attire is casual, so put on you comfortable clothes and stop by.  The good quality will have you coming back for more.

Toys For Tots

In Los Angeles, in 1947, Diane Hendricks, wife of Major Bill Hendricks, USMCR, tried to donate a homemade Raggedy Ann doll to a needy child.  Unfortunately, she was unable to locate any organization which could deliver the toy.  Inspired by her efforts, and at her suggestion, Major Hendricks gathered a group of local Marine reservists, including Lieutenant Colonel John Hampton.  Together, that year, they coordinated and collected some 5,000 toys for local children from collection bins placed outside Warner Bros. movie theaters. 

In 1948, due to the previous year’s success, Toys for Tots was launched as a national campaign. Hendricks used his position as director of Public Relations for Warner Brothers Studio to enlist celebrity support, as well as have Walt Disney Studios design the red toy train logo.  A theme song for the program was written in 1956 by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, and would be recorded by Nat King Cole, among others.
(click the player below to hear the theme song)

From its beginnings in 1947, until 1979, Marine reservists, frequently in their dress blue uniforms, together with volunteers, would collect and refurbish used toys. Beginning in 1980 only new toys were accepted.  Reservists no longer being able to dedicate drill hours to refurbish toys, concerns expressed about the possible mixed message being sent by giving hand-me-downs as a message of hope, and the rise of legal concerns, all contributed to the change in policy.

In 1991, the Secretary of Defense authorized the creation of, and affiliation with, the non-profit charity foundation.  In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve.

In 1996, noting that many communities did not have a Marine reservist presence, the commander of the Marine Forces Reserve authorized Marine Corps League detachments and other local organizations to fill the gaps in toy collection and distribution.

In 2009, the program received support from First Lady Michelle Obama, who placed the first collection box at the White House.[6] In December 2011, she took part in a Toys for Tots activity at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling.

Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit public charity located in Triangle, Virginia, serves to fund, raise funds for, and support the program.  As of 2016, the Toys for Tots Program and Foundation have collected and distributed more than 512 million toys.

Toys for Tots’ Mission “is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to needy children in the community in which the campaign is conducted.”

Toys for Tots’ Stated Goal “is to deliver, through a new toy at Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, and patriotic citizens.”

Notable achievements

  • 2003 Outstanding Nonprofit Organization of the Year (DMA NPF)
  • Reader’s Digest Best Children’s Charity of 2003
  • One of the top 10 charities of 2003 on the Forbes “Gold Star” list.
  • Charity Navigator four star ratings in both 2005 and 2006.

Radio Flyer

In 1917, in Chicago, Antonio Pasin, a craftsman who built and sold phonograph cabinets,  started building small wooden wagons to carry his tools.  After he received numerous requests from customers of phonograph cabinets to buy the wagons as well, he refocused his business on the wagons.  The popularity of his wagons eventually led Pasin to form the Liberty Coaster Company, named in honour of the Statue of Liberty, in 1923. The demands for these original wooden wagons, dubbed the “Liberty Coaster,” quickly outpaced production.  To meet the demand, he adopted the mass production techniques of the auto industry, Pasin began making metal wagons out of stamped steel in 1927.

In 1930 Pasin renamed the company, Radio Steel & Manufacturing, and renamed the wagons, Radio Flyer.   The wagons were named as a tribute to two famous men of the day: Marconi and Lindbergh. Italian inventor and engineer Guglielmo Marconi developed, demonstrated, and marketed the first successful long-distance wireless telegraph and in 1901 broadcast the first transatlantic radio signal. Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic in 1927.  The popularity of the wagons continued and 1500 wagons rolled off assembly lines, each day, even during the Great Depression.

In 1987, Radio Steel changed its name to Radio Flyer after its popular flagship little red wagon.

Robert Pasin, Antonio’s grandson, has been CEO since 1997.

Today, the company produces a wide range of children’s products, including scooters, tricycles, ride-ons, horses, battery ops, and wagons.

In 2015, Fortune named Radio Flyer number one in the top 25 best small businesses for which to work.

The Radio Flyer Wagon was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong in Rochester, New York in 1999, and its creator, Antonio Pasin, was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2003.


2 Replies to “Toys For Tots (Moto17Jax 2017)”

  1. Steve, thanks for sharing your blog with the group. There were many things that you mention in your story that brought back many memories from my younger days, and many things I didn’t know.
    Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.