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Thunderstruck owner Mark Daley keeps Toy Run alive

The holidays are all about tradition. This year, one of the Rogue Valley’s most valuable traditions — the annual motorcycle toy run — was in danger of falling by the wayside when longtime organizers Gene and Lori Nelson decided that after 23 years it was time to retire.

With the help of some community-minded business owners and a host of dedicated sponsors and volunteers, the Southern Oregon (formerly Rogue Valley) Toy Run will once again thunder through the valley on Saturday, Dec. 3.

The Nelsons have handed the Santa hat over to Mark Daley, owner of Thunderstruck Custom Bikes and organizer of the annual Thunderstruck Xtreme bike shows.

“When Gene asked me to take over the run, it was a natural fit,” Daley says. “I already have connections in the community and experience putting together the bike show every year."

Daley partnered with other strong community supporters, including Mark Lamensdorf and brother J.R., owners of Star Body Works and Star 24 Hour Towing in Medford. As motorcycle enthusiasts themselves, they have helped sponsor Daley’s Xtreme bike show and the Toy Run for more than a decade.

This year's event will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Touvelle Lodge, 9367 Table Rock Road, Central Point. After free donuts and coffee, riders head out at noon to travel down Table Rock to the Eagle’s Lodge, 2000 Table Rock Road, Medford. Any street-legal motorcycle is welcome.

“It’s quite a sight to see several hundred decorated bikes passing by so we’re really hoping people will show up along the route and cheer us on or join the end of the parade in their cars,”  Daley says. “This event is open to everybody. Even if you don’t ride a bike, everyone is invited to bring an unwrapped toy and join us at the Eagles for lunch and dancing. We’ll have some great raffle prizes, a 50/50 drawing, event T-shirts and music provided by Hog Wild.”

“I knew we had to pick it up,” Lamensdorf says of the toy run. “Mark is such a great guy and we’ve partnered with him for years. We believe in the goodness that the toy run brings to the valley and we wanted to make sure that the toys and the money stayed local to help less fortunate kids here in Southern Oregon. We just couldn’t let it die.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” Daley says. “We always collect a mountain of toys, and I think people like knowing what they donate is going to local kids around our valley.” Toy Run organizers are coordinating with the Eagles to sort and distribute toys among several local charities.

“I couldn’t begin to pull this off without the help and generosity of all our volunteers and sponsors,” Daley notes. “Many of them are the same ones who just helped sponsor my bike show last summer, but when I called and asked for their help with the Toy Run, almost all of them stepped up in some way. I really have to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of them.”

The Toy Run has survived bumpy roads and changes in leadership during its 36-year history. There’s no doubt its demise would have deprived hundreds of local children of happy smiles on Christmas morning.

“I’ve been riding in the Toy Run ever since I was 17 and had my first Harley," Daley says. “That’s well over 30 years of tradition that I just couldn’t let end.”

Motorcycles packed with children's toys are ready for the annual Southern Oregon Toy Run. - Photo by Cindy Quick Wilson