Motorcyclists assemble for the 2011 Suncoast Brotherhood annual Toy Run. This year’s event is Sunday, Dec. 16 in Dunedin.
DUNEDIN – Around 500 motorcycles will rumble their way through Dunedin on Sunday, Dec. 16, spreading holiday cheer to foster kids in Pinellas County. The Suncoast Brotherhood’s 32nd annual Toy Run will begin to gather at 10 a.m., with kickstands up at noon, starting from the Kmart parking lot at S.R. 580 and U.S. 19.
The procession will snake its way down 580 to Pinehurst Road, to San Christopher Drive, ending at American Legion Post 275 at 360 Wilson St., said “Postal” Kenny Martinaitiz, vice president of the Suncoast Brotherhood.
The Suncoast Brotherhood is a motorcyclists’ rights group, and this toy run has been its big charity event each year since 1980.
“We decided that charity begins at home, and we wanted to do something to benefit Pinellas County,” said “Just Jeff” Carpinski, president of the Brotherhood.
Participants in the toy run are asked to bring $5 and an unwrapped present, all which benefit the Pinellas County Foster and Adoptive Parents Association. This year, people are especially urged to bring gift cards as presents because many of the foster kids are teenagers, and they appreciate gift cards more than toys, Carpinski said.
The Brotherhood is proud to call their event the “longest-running and safest toy run in Pinellas County,” Carpinski said. In all their years of doing it, there has never been one accident or incident, he said.
The toy run is a quasi parade, Martinaitiz said, with a sheriff’s escort and Santa leading it all. Many motorcycles are decorated and riders often dress up in holiday theme outfits. At last year’s event, the procession stretched the entire route, he said.
“We don’t go over 25 miles per hour, and last year we had bikes in the parking lot at the American Legion, and there were at least 100 bikes still in the Kmart parking lot,” Martinaitiz said. “So it was a snake with no breaking.”
When the group gets to the American Legion, it’s a big party, Martinaitiz said, that lasts until about 6 p.m. There will be biker games, music by Blackwater Jack, a giant pile of presents, and some of the foster kids and foster parents will come by to help collect the presents, he said.
“Our goal is to make the kids happy,” Martinaitiz said. “To make their Christmas.”
The event holds a special place in Carpinski’s heart. Especially when he sees the kids’ faces when they come to collect the toys and presents.
“It’s the best thing in the world to me,” Carpinski said. “I’m lucky enough to see foster kids become foster parents and every once in a while I get a call from them. … I have no children. These are my children. I go out of my way for this toy run. I find it’s definitely better to give than receive. I get more out of this than the kids do. I’ll be sticking with this as long as I can.”
This toy run has won the Best Toy Run Award three years in a row from Full Throttle magazine, Carpinski said.
“It’s not just the best toy run, but it’s also the best motorcycle event of the year, voted on by the people of the magazine,” Carpinski said.
Such an event may not fit the typical biker image, but the Brotherhood wants to show the public that bikers are diverse people.
“We want to get away from the hardcore biker stigma,” Martinaitiz said. “We want to get more biker friendly. It’s getting that way, too, especially with a lot of ladies riding now, and we welcome them. And we want to impress upon the motorcyclists to be safe.”
Events like these make everyone who participates ride away happy.
“It just makes me feel good,” Martinaitiz said. “I’m 62 years old. I’ve been with the Brotherhood since ’97, became a life member in ’98, and this is my first year as vice president. It’s just fun. A lot of work, but it’s fun. Especially when we all pull up, there’s a tarp where we put the presents, and it’s as tall as you are, and about 10’ by 12’ wide. We usually have bikes, too.”
In addition to this event, Martinaitiz said that the Suncoast Brotherhood also finds about 30 needy families and “make their Christmas,” providing food, presents and other needed items for the holidays.
Every motorcyclist is invited to participate in the toy run, whether or not they are a part of the Suncoast Brotherhood. For more information, call Martinaitiz at 580-9183 or visit www.suncoastbrotherhood.org.