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Staff photo by Tammy Malgesini

Participants place gifts in bins at Good Shepherd Medical Center during a past Echo Toy Run. In its 15th year, the group will gather Saturday, Dec. 1 in downtown Echo to deliver toys to the hospital in Hermiston.

 

A group of leather-clad stand-ins for Santa Claus are gearing up for the 15th annual Echo Toy Run.

The United States Postal Service doesn’t have a corner on the market when it comes to making deliveries in inclement weather. Neither snow nor rain or sleet and freezing fog has prevented a group of motorcycle enthusiasts from riding their bikes to take toys to Good Shepherd Medical Center each holiday season.

People are invited to bring new, unwrapped toys and gather Saturday on Echo’s Main Street for a noon departure. With toys strapped to his 2004 Harley Wide Glide and an American flag waving in the wind, Al Sells will lead the way to the hospital, 610 N.W. 11th St., Hermiston. Those who don’t ride motorcycles can follow at the rear of the pack.

Sells has carried on the tradition started by the former owners of the Echo Saloon. While the Stanfield man might look a little rough around the edges, Kelly Sanders, vice president of human resources at Good Shepherd Health Care System, said Sells and the rest of the bikers that participate annually have hearts of gold.

“They are such giving people,” Sanders said. “It’s a wonderful thing they do for the children at the hospital and in the community.”

The bikers filled one of the hospital’s large laundry bins with toys during the event’s first year. That amount has increased threefold over the years, Sanders said, as well as filling the back of a pickup truck with larger items like bicycles.

The generosity of the bikers lasts well beyond the holiday season. In addition to providing gifts to kids in the hospital during Christmas, toys are available for staff to give to children who might benefit from having their spirits lifted throughout the year. Also, Sanders said they share some with the Hermiston Police Department’s Christmas Express program and other needy children in the community.

Hospital employees will greet the group when they arrive and offer coffee, hot chocolate and pastries. For more information, call Sells at 541-571-1820 or Nick Bejarano at 541-667-3460.

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