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29th Annual Buck Jones Toy Run smashes record for most participants ever
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Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus ride their Rudolph-themed motorcycle to lead the pack of bikers participating in the 29th Annual Buck Jones Toy Run. - photo by Jacob Smith

Sunday’s 29th Annual Buck Jones Toy Run was the event’s most successful run yet, officials say, with hundreds of bikes and participants coming from all over the region to support local children. 

“Easily 250 more people than ever before,” K.A.R.E. for Kids Executive Director TIffany Buchan said on Sunday. “In fact, we were a little bit panicked when we got the phone call that we wouldn’t have enough beans to feed everyone.”

All together, 278 bikes carrying 425 participants rode from the Cumming Fairgrounds to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame in Dawsonville, and then on to Dahlonega as a part of an effort to raise toys for local groups like K.A.R.E for Kids. The riders stopped in Dawsonville for lunch provided by K.A.R.E. for Kids volunteers, then continued on to Lumpkin County High School in Dahlonega where the toy drive finished. 

The event was started in 1991 by Buck Jones, a former Cumming police chief who also worked for Dawson County Sheriff’s Office. After Jones passed away in 2010, the toy run was named in his memory.

Charities that benefit from the run differ in each of the three counties, Meals by Grace in Forsyth, K.A.R.E. for Kids in Dawson and Lumpkin County Division of Family and Children Services and Community Helping Place in Dahlonega, but the mission remains the same: give local kids the Christmas they deserve. 

Each biker was asked to bring either toys or gift cards for kids in need from the Dawson County school system. And according to Buchan, this event and the toys it raised were crucial to the K.A.R.E. for Kids holiday mission. 

“Oh my gosh, this is absolutely unbelievable,” Buchan said. “We needed this, specifically this year more than ever due to COVID. We host the Moonshine Festival and our numbers were down for that, even though the festival was a success, our numbers were still down. This means everything to us.”

Earl Cotter participated in the Buck Jones Toy Drive for the first time this year. He said that although bikers can be perceived as having a tough exterior, a lot of them, including himself, are some of the most generous people you will meet. 

““Might be tough looking but at least I know what it means to be kind,” Cotter said. 

The K.A.R.E. for Kids staff added a new tradition this year by awarding the best decorated table at the Racing Hall of Fame lunch event,  and for the best tasting food, all decided by a judge. 

Wanda Stephens won for her food and Angelina Harben won for her balloon arch decorations.

Buchan said this is a tradition the staff hopes to keep going on in the future. 

Some of the bikers said they thought the numbers were so high, due to COVID-19 restrictions which kept many inside for months this past year. Others said that Sunday’s weather was perfect for riding a motorcycle through the mountains. 

Though Cotter traveled from South Georgia to participate in this year’s Toy Run, he said that he hopes to make this a tradition for himself in the years to come. 

“It’s a great feeling to know I can help someone that might not have anybody looking out for them,” Cotter said during his lunch. “Who wouldn’t want to be Santa Claus?”