For 27 years, leather-clad bikers have cruised through Vancouver the weekend after Thanksgiving to deliver toys to the Salvation Army.
And for 27 years, the late-November skies have been kind to the motorcycle riders.
“It’s never rained,” biker Vic Voltz said. “That’s gotta prove to people there’s a God.”
Voltz founded the True Apostles motorcycle ministry and started the True Apostles Toy Run. Every year since, bikers from various motorcycle ministries, and others without any affiliation, have purchased toys for needy children and donated the gifts to the Salvation Army. Riders pay a registration fee to ride in the event — this year it was $10 — which also benefits the organization.
In recent years, other ministries have joined True Apostles in sponsoring the event. Saturday’s toy run was led by True Apostles, Bikers for Christ, Black Sheep, Christian Motorcyclists Association and CrossPointe Riders.
“Since we believe in the same Lord and are sons of the same Christ, we work together,” said Rich Schlalos, an event organizer and member of Bikers for Christ.
This year, bikers met Saturday morning at Columbia Harley-Davidson in Hazel Dell. After a brief ceremony and prayer, they hopped on their bikes. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office escorted the 120 bikes to the Northwest Baptist Conference Center.
One by one, bikers dressed in head-to-toe leather filed into the building carrying Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, board games and Hot Wheels cars.
“They help us help kids in need with a gift for Christmas,” said Salvation Army, business administrator Steve Rusk. “And that’s what it’s all about.”
Vancouver resident Steve Powers has participated the toy run for the past 15 years and knows firsthand the impact the event can have on local kids.
“When I was poor years ago, they made Christmas nice for my family,” he said. “Now that I have money, I give some back.”
Powers had just moved to Vancouver and was working at a job that didn’t pay well. That year, the Salvation Army brought gifts for his five children. Once his situation improved, he began attending the annual event, as well as a toy run to benefit Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.
This was the first year for Vancouver resident David Wilson. He’s been a member of the local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association for four years. The fellowship with other bikers and the chance to serve the community brought him to the event.
“Obviously, it’s about helping the kids,” Wilson said. “It’s a good cause.”
Another ministry group organized a similar event in Vancouver for a few years in the early 1980s. When the group decided to stop, Voltz began the True Apostles event.
“I couldn’t see just forgetting it,” he said. “I couldn’t let it go.”
The 81-year-old hasn’t missed a ride since, even after having open-heart surgery last year.
“I’m very thankful that God has been so good to me through the years,” Voltz said.
He and other riders were also thankful the morning rain ceased and the sun peeked through the clouds just as the toy run began.
“In 27 years, we’ve never gotten wet,” biker Tim Randall said. “I don’t think there’s another event in Clark County that can say that.”