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GOOD NEWS!: Motorcycle clubs join forces to brighten Christmas

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Members of some of the motorcycle clubs that organized and donated to the Christmas Toy Drive at the Red Rooster Bar and Grill. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

CAIRO — When you think of the holidays, motorcycles may not be at the top of the list of images that pop into your mind.

But a group of more than a dozen motorcycle groups joined forces this year to brighten the holidays for local families in need.

The Christmas Toy Drive was hosted last Sunday by a group of local motorcycle groups spanning Greene, Columbia and Dutchess counties. The clubs met up at the Red Rooster Bar and Grill on Main Street in Cairo and collected toys for local elementary school students.

“Today is our toy drive,” said Tom Plank, who spearheaded the project. “It will benefit the kids in the Cairo-Durham school district. It’s a group of motorcycle organizations, clubs and riding clubs, a bunch of us got together to collect toys. There are tables full of toys. People have been dropping off toys and there are going to be a lot of happy kids.”

And, of course, Santa Claus was on hand to oversee the toy drive and meet with kids to talk about their Christmas wishes.

This is the first event of its kind by the motorcycle clubs.

“We will see how it works out,” Plank said. “Maybe it will be an annual thing, but I think we will move it around to benefit kids in other school districts.”

One of the tables filled with toys that will be given out to local schoolchildren in the Cairo-Durham district. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

The toy drive organizers are working with Meghan Stalter, the social worker at Cairo-Durham Elementary School, who is collecting toys and other items for local kids for the holiday season.

“We have a bunch of families that I know are struggling,” Stalter said. “I sent out a list to the parents and they sent it back to me with things that their kids need or are interested in, and then I find donors to purchase stuff for them. We will distribute them to the kids who need it.”

Stalter will supplement her original list of donors with the toys collected by the motorcycle clubs at the Red Rooster Bar and Grill event.

“There are plenty of kids in our district whose families may not even be able to afford Christmas at all,” Stalter said. “This eases the financial burden for the families, and it also provides the opportunity for the kids to have Christmas and to get things that they enjoy.”

There are 100 students at Cairo-Durham Elementary School who will benefit, Stalter said.

L.J. James, a member of one of the motorcycle clubs, said the project was a group initiative.

“This is not about any one club,” James said. “This is about motorcycle groups that come together. We do a lot of great things every year and children are our number one thing.”

Area motorcycle clubs host a range of community fundraisers and programs that help people in need, Plank said.

“Our groups are mostly community minded and different clubs do different things,” Plank said. “One club will do events to benefit a handicapped child, and another club does the Kick Cancer’s Butt Run, in which we choose one person in the community that has cancer, and we raise money through the motorcycle run and give it to that person. All of the clubs — every one of them — does events like this.”

The toy drive gives the club a chance to get together and have fun, but also help the local community at the same time, James added.

“This is our first year and we hope that it will get bigger and that more motorcycle groups will get involved,” James said. “None of us want to imagine any children in our backyard going without a gift for the holidays, and that is the driving force behind this.”

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