26th annual biker toy run roars into Truman Smith

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By Suzanne Bardwell

Christmas sounds usually include bells and carols, but over 100 motorcycles roaring into Truman Smith’s Children’s Care Center is the sound that kicks off the week before Christmas for that facility’s residents.

The bikers, accompanied by decorated vehicles and even a toy-filled sleigh wagon, filled the parking lot of the Gladewater children’s care center Saturday afternoon. The growing crowd toting toys and bringing lots of smiles are a tradition, one that began 26 years ago at Mom’s Biker Bar in Longview.

Saturday, Graham Orr was there honoring the tradition his grandmother Nell Higginbotham known as “Mom”,  began with toy runs all those years ago.

“It brings all of us a lot of happiness,” Orr said. “To see the kids’ smiles keeps the tradition going.”

The event may be unique to Gladewater, but throughout the state biker runs are a staple of Christmas cheer. But the one started by “Mom” is the oldest in East Texas.

“Mom knew people who had disabled children including folks who worked for her.” rider ‘Big Shane’ said. “These kids look forward to this every year and we don’t want to let them down.”

What makes the toy run to Gladewater special is that it includes riders from every walk of life, including those who belong to established edgier motorcycle clubs, to Bikers for Christ, as well as Brothers’ Keepers which is made up of area firefighters. There were also individuals who simply supported the run’s cause of bringing cheer to Truman Smith patients.

‘Big Shane’ said that he had made all but one of the toy runs and would be back next year.

Before the long trail of over 90 bikes came roaring down Highway 80, race car driver Chase Hatton brought his modified race car in a trailer. When he rolled it out the sound of the engine brought Truman Smith residents Bryan Carroll and Jordan Gafford wheeling out for a look and pictures with the car and driver.

The next group to appear came in a big yellow school bus and had numbers on their backs. The Spring Hill High School Panther boys’ and girls’ soccer teams were on site to bring their cheer. They ended up helping the bikers unload and hand out all the toys playing the part of cheery elves as they moved throughout the crowded parking lot and health care center.

Bikers from Unique Riders group, a social motorcycle group had Santa riding along with them in their convoy of 15 motorcycles. Santa put safety first wearing his helmet, and as soon as he parked donned his hat and made a beeline for the porch where Truman Smith ‘kids’ anxiously awaited the toy run visitors.

“This just makes you smile,” Santa said. “This is what Christmas is supposed to be about.”

Race car driver Chase Hatton of DeBerry brought his car to share with residents of Truman Smith Children’s Care Center at Saturday’s Biker Toy Run. The car was a favorite with Jordan Gafford and Bryan Carroll who have been friends since 1998 and share a love of cars.  Photo By Suzanne Bardwell

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