With 126 motorcycles and dozens of other supporters in attendance at its most recent bike night, area nonprofit Buck Jones Charity Foundation is well on its way to reaching its $50,000 goal to help less fortunate children in Dawson, Forsyth and Lumpkin counties.
This story continues below.
During the Nov. 2 bike night at Dawson County’s Miller’s Ale House, attendees brought $3,500 in gift cards, cash and checks and at least 77 donated toys.
That’s not counting the toys the nonprofit is still getting, said Steve Paras, the Vice President of Special Events for Harley-Davidson who joined the foundation last year.
Wednesday’s bike night was sponsored by the Lion’s Paw chapter of the Widow’s Sons of Georgia motorcycle club. Donations will be distributed between The Place of Forsyth, K.A.R.E. For Kids and DFCS in Lumpkin County.
Events like this bike night come ahead of the 31st annual Buck Jones Toy Run on Sunday, Nov. 20. It’s one of the bigger toy runs in the state and featured 311 bikes and 52 jeeps last year, Paras said.
The Punishers LEMC Georgia 1st chapter, made up of current and former military members and first responders, sponsored the last bike night. They collected 141 toys and about $4,000 when considering the toys, gift cards, cash and checks, Paras added.
Between the two recent bike nights, that’s about $7,500 in donations.
The foundation also has four different sponsorship levels, said Paras, with the Punishers occupying the top level and pledging $11,400 toward the foundation.
The second sponsorship tier is held by the North Georgia Mountain Riders, who’ve been with the toy run the longest and brought the most volunteers, Paras added.
As part of the charitable efforts, the Dawson County Miller’s Ale House was in the midst of a competition with the Texas Roadhouse in Cumming to collect donations.
Whichever restaurant collects the most will get a trophy that’s being built now.
“Right now, if we add up everything we did so far and what we expect to get, we’re almost right where we were last year,” Paras said of donations so far.
That makes $32,000 collected, close to the $33,400 amassed in 2021.
What started out as just Christmas-time endeavors has expanded to fundraising efforts throughout the year by the foundation and partnering biker groups, benefitting about 2,600 kids, Paras said.
The all-year-round activities will make it easier for the foundation to reach, if not exceed, its $50,000 goal.
Gift cards and cash have been key with these consistent altruistic efforts, he added.
These donations help cover children’s clothing, shoes, toiletries and other necessities like school lunches.
Part of the donations go to help The Place of Forsyth’s Holiday House initiative. That program culminates in a weeklong event where pre-qualified clients can stop by an off-site location and use a points system to choose toys, $25 gift cards for older kids and other Christmas items such as stocking stuffers, wrapping paper, tags and bows.
Toys are being collected for the Holiday House now through Dec. 7, and parent shopping days will run Dec. 12-17.
K.A.R.E Director Tiffany Buchan said the toy run has been “huge” to her organization over the past three decades. Initially, the annual event started out with K.A.R.E. volunteers feeding toy run participants at the Pool Room.
“When it comes to stuff like this, it's unbelievable how generous they are. They go above and beyond for the children,” Buchan said about participating bikers. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a child in their community or not. They go above and beyond, and that’s impressive.”
Buchan added that the Buck Jones Charity Foundation’s efforts throughout the year are especially helpful going into the holidays, as K.A.R.E. both helps children in need and hosts the annual Mountain Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville.
For people like Paras, the mission of helping children in need is personal.
“I grew up in foster homes,” he said. “From my fifth birthday until I was 10 years old, I went through what these kids are going through…no Christmas, no birthday, no Thanksgiving…I really want to help and go above and beyond, because I was [one of] those kids…and I understand what they’re going through.”
Toy run details
All makes of motorcycles are welcome at the event, which starts at the Cumming Fairgrounds on Nov. 20.
Registration begins at 11 a.m., and riders will leave the venue at 1 p.m. Participants are asked to bring three toys, with one for each of the stops.
Participants will leave from the Cumming spot and head toward the second stop at Dawson County’s Veterans Memorial Park, located off of Ga. 9 North. Event activities will take place there near the big park pavilion.
Food will be provided courtesy of Miller’s Ale House, Freddy’s, Crave BBQ and Texas Roadhouse. Then, the toy run route will proceed to Dahlonega High School in Lumpkin County.
People are encouraged to either donate or volunteer at one of the toy run stops, where
donated food, raffles and games will be set up for riders and other attendees.
Business owners can also donate $150 to set up booths at one of the locations to promote their business or set up a toy drop box at their shop or restaurant to collect donations to bring to the event.
Those interested in participating or donating before the event can email email@example.com for more information.
Checks for monetary donations can also be made out to Buck Jones Charity Foundation, Inc. at 4870 Haysboro Way, Cumming, GA 30040.
Note: People can learn more about the toy run’s history and impact by going to this recent article published by sister publication Forsyth County News.