Laura Reynosa and her 22-month-old son, Israel, wait for the start of the “Operation Santa Claus” toy run Saturday at High Plains Harley-Davidson. (CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson)
Braving low temperatures and cutting winds, bikers bundled up Saturday morning and tucked dolls, cars and teddy bears in saddlebags to make sure needy children have gifts for Christmas.
Organizers of the fifth annual “Operation Santa Claus” toy run sponsored by High Plains Harley-Davidson said the cold didn’t squelch the holiday spirits of motorcycle enthusiasts who gathered to donate the toys.
“At times like this, we don’t get complaints about the weather. They all show up — it’s about the kids,” event coordinator Barbara Higgitt said as she watched the pile of toys grow with each new arrival.
Around 11 a.m., 62 motorcycles lined up for the parade from High Plains Harley-Davidson on Mabry Drive to the Elks Lodge, where hot chili and live music awaited.
Taking an extended route up Prince Street to Sycamore Street, they rode two abreast with a police escort.
Wind speeds of around 18 mph drove temperatures to the low 20s with the wind chill factor, according to the National Weather Service.
More than 200 new, unwrapped toys collected will be given to Children, Youth and Family Services for area children at the holidays, Higgitt said.
Funds raised through a raffle will also be donated to meet additional needs, she said.
“It’s about celebrating the holidays. I ride every chance I get, cold or not,” said Mike Brown, a 60-year-old Clovis business owner, smoke from his cigar stub mingling with the frosty air.
“It’s for a good cause. The kids need it.”