The deafening roar of motorcycle engines will rumble in downtown Echo this weekend as participants gear up for the Echo Toy Run.
Organizer Al Sells hopes people will pick up a few toys or gifts for the 14th annual event. Anyone who wants to participate is invited to bring a new unwrapped toy.
The group will gather Saturday morning on Echo’s Main Street. Kickstands are up at noon for the ride into Hermiston to deliver toys to Good Shepherd Medical Center.
A 2004 Harley Wide Glide serves as Santa’s sleigh for Sells. The Hermiston man has been busy giving it a tune up in preparation for the annual run. In addition to leading the pack, Sells always straps a stuffed animal to the front of his bike.
“I’ve always taken teddy bears to the runs,” he said. “They are good for a boy or a girl.”
Sells said last year’s event attracted about 100 participants. Even during years when Mother Nature hasn’t cooperated, he said a number of participants are still eager and excited to make the special delivery. Neither rain, snow, sleet or hail, Sells said, will prevent Santa’s leather-clad ambassadors from completing their journey.
The former owners of the Echo Saloon started the event to help brighten the spirits of sick kids during the holiday season. Sells continues to coordinate the annual tradition as a way to give back to the community.
“It seems like everyone enjoys it,” he said. “And I enjoy getting to see everyone before Christmas.”
As the effort has revved up, it has expanded well beyond the holiday season. Nick Bejarano, director of marketing and communications at Good Shepherd, said hospital staff can give toys to children throughout the year. The gifts often help in reducing anxiety during hospital visits.
Those who don’t ride a motorcycle can bring toys prior to the noon departure or take up the rear of the pack as the group rides into Hermiston. Also, toys can be dropped off at the hospital administrative offices, 610 N.W. 11th St.
For more information, call Sells at 541-571-1820 or Bejarano at 541-667-3460.