Taking it to the streets

Everybody knows those big burly bikers are really softies at heart. Especially on Dec. 2, when they hook dolls, games and toy cars to their motorcycles and parade down Western Avenue to deliver toys for needy kids.

The annual parade, which has included up to 40,000 bikers, celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and distributes thousands of toys to the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, as well as to other local charities looking for toys for kids."Bikers are some of the most benevolent people in the world,” says Robert"Cooch” Kuczera, president of the Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade.

The parade kicks off at the Dan Ryan Woods at 83rd Street and Western Avenue, with line up beginning at 6 a.m. and the parade departure set for 9:30 a.m. At 9:11 a.m., participants recite the Pledge of Allegiance and release balloons in honor of POWs and MIAs. Then Santa heads off, leading the bikers to the Fourth Marine Reserve Center at Foster Avenue and Troy Street.

Families love checking out the decorated motorcycles and hearing the sounds of thousands of motorcycles as the parade kicks off, Kuczera says.

This year, the group is asking for help. With bad weather the past two years, the turnout has been low, which means fewer toys for kids.

Because the city doesn’t block off the street for the parade, volunteers are stationed at intersections to keep traffic at bay while the bikers pass. Kuczera says this would be a great activity for scout troops, families and other groups who want to help. And if you can’t make it to the parade, check the group’s Web site for toy drop-off locations to donate.

With the exception of a nominal amount of money used to pay for the toy warehouse and other overhead, everything the group earns goes directly to help children. Hundreds of volunteers—bikers and non-bikers—toil throughout the year to make the holidays special and bring a smile to children."This is more than a parade, it’s a devotion,” Kuczera says.

For more information, call (773) 866-TOYS (8697) or visit the Web site at www.chicagolandTFT.org.

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