The Toy Run is made possible by an amazing collaboration of volunteers from local motorcycle clubs, charities, government and other interested individuals.
Significant support also comes from local businesses who donate money and toys and provide starting and rest stops along the course.
This is actually the second iteration of a Christmas Toy Run.
Brian and Heidi Mervine of Vertigo Tattoo in Manns Harbor organized the first toy runs and ran the event for many years.
But bad luck, including successive years of bad weather, hindered attendance, and the run began to cost more than it raised in donations for the children.
We sat down with three volunteers to discuss the upcoming run; Terry Gray, the organizer of the event, Heidi Mervine of The Source Church,
A hurricane proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, and Vertigo reluctantly suspended the toy run.
All of which led Terry Gray and a handful of other volunteers to try to put the run back on track.
The new group consisted of representatives from across the beach, with one each from Southern Shores and Nags Head, and two each from Manteo and Kill Devil Hills/Colington.
Later a representative from Hatteras Island was added, and the presence of Vertigo added mainland Dare so that all areas of Dare County would be included in the effort.
They started a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and the first people they visited were the Mervine’s at Vertigo to see if they could use their facility as the starting point in honor of Vertigo’s past history with the fundraiser.
“We decided what we wanted to do was raise money and promote motorcycle events in the areas that would benefit the children of Dare County at Christmas,” Gray said. “It was all new to us. We had no idea how it would turn out, but we raised $15,000 in toys and cash from our initial event.”
The Dare Center and the Outer Banks Woman’s Club helped distribute the toys, and more than 400 children received gifts for Christmas in 2016.
While many bike clubs participate, Gray cited the Outer Banks HOG chapter as key in making the runs successful. The chapter made a substantial contribution and their members serve as the safety unit to make sure it’s a safe run since it’s a completely escorted ride.
The HOG group came back this year and all bikes are welcome. “There are no attitudes here, it’s all about the kids and we want all riders of all makes and models of bikes to participate.”
Based on last year’s success, Gray said that this year businesses, including Realtors and restaurants, came to them wanting to participate and donate not only money for toys, but cash to offset the costs so that almost all of the money raised from participants can be spent on toys.
This year, Gray said, even more children are in need, and as a result, the group has set an ambitious goal of $25,000.
For the 2017 event, the DCMTR is partnering with the Dare Center and The Source Church to distribute the toys this Christmas.
Heidi Mervine is the creative director at the church and also works in several of the church’s outreach programs.
When Vertigo ceased sponsoring the toy runs, Heidi and Brian teamed up with the Source Church to start a program known as “Stuff the Bus” to collect and distribute toys to children at Christmas who otherwise would have no gifts to open on Christmas Day.