Bikers from across central Arkansas rumbled their way into Conway Regional on Saturday, bearing hundreds of gifts for sick children.
Nearly one hundred bikers along with their families and friends rode from he Landers Toad Suck Harley Davidson dealership on Collier Drive to the east wing at Conway Regional Medical Center to drop off hundreds of toys Saturday afternoon.
“This is all about the kids,” Toy Run co-founder Steve “Painter” Polk told the Log Cabin Democrat shortly before the group left the dealership to deliver toys to hospital staff. “No child should be in the hospital without a toy. What we do makes a child’s stay a little bit better.”
The Conway Regional Toy Run began in 2000 when Polk decided to take a gift to a child who was in the hospital.
Polk, a corporate aircraft painter who retired from Dassault Falcon Jet, had a friend whose child was in the hospital. When he asked the child where he played and if the hospital had any toys he was able to play with, Polk learned the hospital did not have the budget to buy the children toys.
Polk and four of his friends – Vicki and Ross Scalise and Mike and Roxanne Ford – banded together to form what became the hospital’s inaugural toy run.
In its 19th year, the annual Toy Run now brings in hundreds of toys that hospital staff disperse to children throughout the year.
Women’s Services Director Mary Salazar said she and other hospital staff members were forever grateful for this initiative and the bikers who make it possible.
“It’s a wonderful program,” she said. “It allows us to provide gifts to many children throughout the year. It’s overwhelming to watch the generosity [of the biker groups].”
Pediatric patients in the emergency room, as well as those out in the waiting room, often receive gifts thanks to the annual Conway Regional Toy Run. The toys also benefit children who come to Conway Regional to have lab work and other medical needs.
Handing out toys to the children helps make their hospital experience less traumatic, Polk said.
After the bikers placed gifts around a Christmas tree in the east wing lobby, Santa (Dave Norphy) and Buddy the Elf (Bill Helton) grabbed a few of the toys and headed over the to emergency room where they met up with a 2-year-old boy.
Cincere Webster’s parents – Carl Webster and Shawnda Davis – smiled as the Christmas duo walked into their room to greet their 2-year-old son.
“He can’t wait to get home and play now,” Davis said.
Conway Regional CEO Matt Troup said he was amazed by the support the hospital receives from local bikers each year.
“It’s uplifting for the staff and for the children,” he said.
Christian Motorcyclists Association Gap Riders member Holly Tennyson participated in the Conway Regional Toy Run for the fourth year on Saturday.
“It’s such a wonderful thing,” she said adding that she most enjoys “seeing when the children’s eyes light up” when they receive their gifts.
Next year, the Conway Regional Toy Run will celebrate its 20th year.
Polk said he plans to grow out his hair between now and then and host a competition, allowing the group who brings the largest donation to cut his hair before the bikers head over to the hospital to deliver the gifts.
Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.