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Longtime volunteer Tom Wall ‘lives and breathes’ Port Alberni Toy Run

Annual motorcycle event kicks off at noon Saturday, Sept. 17 at Little Qualicum Falls
Tom Wall and his daughter Emma have been riding in the Port Alberni Toy Run together since Emma was five years old. They will take Wall’s Spyder on the 2022 run, Sept. 17. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The Port Alberni Toy Run is a family affair for the Walls in Port Alberni.

Tom Wall lives and breathes Toy Run: he has supported the event for 32 years, and has been a member for 23 years. The Port Alberni motorcycle rider has been vice-chairman of the event for 12 years, and has brought four other family members into the fold: his wife Susan, daughter Emma and two sons.

Emma has been Tom’s co-pilot since she was five years old, and barely tall enough to ride as a passenger on Tom’s former Harley Davidson. Emma is one of the reasons that Wall has dedicated himself to supporting the Toy Run.

“Toy Run helps children in the (Alberni) Valley immensely,” he said. “My daughter had had some serious health issues; she had to have help out of Hilton Children’s Centre and Toy Run was a big supporter of the Hilton Centre. Not only my daughter but other people’s children have needed assistance,” he explained.

Tom and Emma will be riding on Tom’s Can-Am Spyder three-wheeler in this year’s run. This will be Emma’s 17th Toy Run.

“He’s all about the Toy Run,” says chairman David Wiwchar, who has worked alongside vice-chairman Wall for a decade. “He’s a great guy to have as my vice-chair. I appreciate him every day.”

Wiwchar said Wall’s dedication to Toy Run is so deep that one year during the event Wall’s house suffered a fire, and “his biggest concern was losing his collection of Toy Run T-shirts.”

Wall said he had 28 years’ worth of shirts when the fire happened in a house his family was renting. Jal Designs was able to re-print shirts from every year that he lost.

“I live Toy Run. That’s my only vice,” he explained. “I wear Toy Run T-shirts, Toy Run hats. I represent Toy Run anywhere I go. That’s my passion.”

While Tom and Emma will be busy riding on Toy Run day, Susan will be running the children’s activities back at Glenwood Centre. There will be games inside as well as cotton candy, popcorn, hotdogs and chili for the kids.

Outdoors, biker games, a show and shine, vendor market and beer garden will all be back. The dance Saturday night will feature Johnny Inappropriate and the Rangers. Tickets for the dance go on sale to riders at Little Qualicum Falls, and to the public at 1 p.m. at Glenwood Centre.

Sunday’s festivities include breakfast at Glenwood Centre starting at 8 a.m. followed by a poker run at 9:30 a.m., concluding with prizes and a beer garden at 1 p.m.

Toy Run chairman Wiwchar said the event was back to almost full strength in 2021, and now all events are back for 2022. “We learned a lot through COVID,” he added. The event committee had to switch things on the fly to comply with COVID-19 protocols, which included hiring Lance Goddard’s Five Acre Co. mobile stage to move the band outside for Saturday night’s dance. The move worked so well that Toy Run has rented the stage again this year.

Wet weather last year meant the number of motorcycles was fairly low—only 400—but riders and spectators were especially generous with their cash and toy donations, Wiwchar said. That meant a number of donations were made to organizations that help children in the Alberni Valley.

Going into his 10th year as chairman and 18th as a member, Wiwchar said his goal for 2022 is simple: “a safe and happy run.”

The Port Alberni Toy Run kicks off at noon on Saturday, Sept. 17 from the parking lot at Little Qualicum Falls. Riders will follow Highway 4 into Port Alberni and will drive to Harbour Quay for a turn around the fountain before heading up Argyle Street and hanging a left on 10th Avenue to reach Glenwood Centre. Spectators are encouraged to watch riders from alongside the route.

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Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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