The Toy Run riders roll down Argyle Street into Harbour Quay in 2019. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Port Alberni’s annual Toy Run will be a drive-by affair this year

Organizers ask drivers to be aware of motorcycles visiting city

Port Alberni might not be getting a parade of motorcycles this weekend, but people can still expect to see plenty of bikes on the road as the Port Alberni Toy Run hosts a “drive by” event on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Although there will be no established route or parade where spectators can gather and cheer on the bikes, Toy Run organizers are encouraging motorcyclists to drive to and from Port Alberni this weekend, following their own schedule and their own route.

Toy Run chairperson David Wiwchar said he doesn’t know how many riders are planning the drive this weekend. The dance, beer gardens and Poker Run have all also been cancelled, as has the mass gathering at Little Qualicum Falls.

“We have no expectations—this is all new,” he said. “We’re not the full weekend this year, but we’re hoping for the best. As always, we want people to keep an eye out for motorcycles on the road.”

A small contingent from the Langley chapter of Harley Owners Group will be coming over to present a cheque to Wiwchar. They usually have more than 40 riders that make the trip, Langley HOG assistant director Peter Chutskoff said: those who aren’t among the few coming over have donated generously, he added.

Port Alberni’s Glenwood Centre will be open on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. to accept donations of new, unused toys. Social distancing protocols will be in place. There will be two lanes outside of the Glenwood Centre for bikes to use. Volunteers—wearing personal protective equipment—will take toys and cash donations, as well as contact tracing information.

“We’ve been talking with our medical health officer to make sure we’re in compliance,” said Wiwchar.

To help make up for lost revenues, the Toy Run launched a fundraiser earlier this summer, selling teddy bears wearing miniature Toy Run t-shirts and masks. Teddy bear sales have been going “really strong” said Wiwchar, thanks in part to the efforts of treasurer Robin Klatt and other volunteers who have been sewing homemade face masks for the stuffies.

“We’ve sold 1,500 so far, and we just ordered another 500 so we’ll have enough to sell at the Glenwood Centre this weekend,” he said.

The response from the community this year has been strong, said Wiwchar—but this isn’t unique to COVID-19.

“The community is always incredible,” he said.

Volunteers have not been canvassing the business community for donations like they usually do, given the financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Despite that, many businesses have come forward and offered to donate,” he said.

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