CHEK

Motorcyclists are cheered as they deliver toys in Port Alberni

More than 1,200 motorcycles echoed in a massive formation through the Alberni Valley Saturday, in a spectacle that lined roadsides with cheering crowds. The 33rd-annual Port Alberni Toy Run delivered a massive haul of toys for children in the community where child poverty is among the highest in the province. Skye Ryan reports.

As excited crowds lined Port Alberni’s roadsides, Calie Haberaland tried to see the faces of the motorcyclists who saved her daughters’ Christmas last year.

“Yes it’s very exciting,” said the Alberni mother. “I’m very thankful for them.”

When fire ravaged their home, it was the donations of toys packed in on roaring Harley Davidson’s during the Toy Run that put smiles on her children faces at the worst of times.

“Right before Christmas we had the house fire and they lost a lot of their toys,” said Haberaland.

It’s personal for many lining the route.  The Port Alberni Toy Run has come to the rescue of thousands of families over its 33 years, raising money and toys to help children in low-income families.

New Census information released this week shows nearly 1.2 million children in Canada are living in poverty, a number that is on the decline but is still about 17 per cent of all Canadian children.

Toy run organizer David Wiwchar said his community is one of the hardest hit by child poverty in B.C.

“Port Alberni has a problem with child poverty,” said Wiwchar. “Our numbers are worse than any other place on the island and even compared to other places in BC but the good thing is that we’re a community and we all pull together in Port Alberni and that’s how we’ve always done things and we try to level the playing field a bit just through our own efforts,” he said.

Thanks to community support that shows no sign of slowing down. More than 1200 riders from across the Pacific Northwest travelled to Alberni for the Toy Run. Bringing cheer that will be spread right through the year and reminding families like Calie Haberaland’s, why they are so glad to call Alberni their home.

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