December came and went in a flurry of toy rides and benefits. At times I wasn’t quite sure in which direction to head because there were so many worthwhile events going on. The month started out with a poker run on the first day to aid Intervention Services of Volusia County in collecting toys for children who are removed from their homes during the holidays due to unsafe family situations. The ride started at OB’s in Deland and worked its way through local watering holes before ending at the Ocean Deck in Daytona. A special lunch menu was provided there and the Mayan Inn Resort offered a special rate for those wishing to continue partying safely… That day my friend and I stayed inland and headed to the 9th annual Lake County Toy Run over in Leesburg with about 600 of my closest biker friends. The ride started at the Walmart parking lot and ended at Gator Harley with the usual after-party festivities, but not before collecting a couple truckloads of toys for the local charities… The next day it was off to the east coast of Florida to support the 31st annual Brevard County Toy Run put together by Brevard County ABATE and a whole slew of volunteers. This ride boasts several thousand riders and always brings out beautiful bikes, lots of toys and some very strange holiday attire by both the guys and gals… Right up US 1 that same day the Ormond Beach Elks Club hosted their 7th annual Family Renew Ride with a nice breakfast before the ride and then a big buffet at the end at the Dirty Harry’s on Main Street in Daytona. I’m not sure, but there must have been a bloody mary or two along the way since one of the stops was the White Eagle in Korona and they make some good bloody marys (or so I’ve heard)… And over in Ocala, the Harley Owners Group and Ocala Harley-Davidson rolled up their sleeves and put on the 14th annual Toy Run to benefit underprivileged kids in Marion County. The police-escorted ride (complete with Santa) left the dealership at noon and ended in the big town square in downtown Ocala where the kids were waiting. This event is supported by many local businesses every year including City Collision, WIND-FM Radio and Ford of Ocala… On Friday night, December 7, back in the Daytona area the Enforcers MC pulled out the aprons and the pots and hosted a spaghetti dinner to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Along with a good dinner, those attending enjoyed dancing and a chance to win a bike trailer that was raffled off for the cause… Space Coast Harley down in Palm Bay hosted their own Holiday Poker Run on the 8th to benefit a little three-year-old named Christian Kolker who has a congenital heart defect resulting in huge medical bills. Christian is the son of a local deputy and already has a pacemaker to aid his condition, but will need more medical aid as the years go by… On December 9 EagleRider of Orlando was the starting point for another toy run to benefit the kids down at Sunny Side, another children’s home that has gone through some hard times recently. This ride rolled out of EagleRider and headed toward Donna’s Hideout located in the beautiful old St. Cloud Hotel. Once there, riders enjoyed visiting with Santa and having pictures taken with him, his elves or whomever else they could drag into the picture… But it wasn’t all charity rides and benefits for the month. On the evening of December 6, a couple friends and I headed to a night designed just for the ladies at Orlando Harley’s Historic Factory location where we enjoyed a nice spread of hors d’oeuvres, music, prizes and cocktails. The event was very nice and certainly lived up to its name: Belles, Bubbles and Bikes. It gave us a chance to see some old friends and make some new ones, as well as supporting the local Second Harvest Food Bank… On December 15, riders from all over Central Florida headed out on a very foggy morning to support Wreaths Across America Day at the Santa Fe Cemetery in Hampton. Seven ceremonial wreaths for the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and POW/MIAs were placed there to remember military personnel who have given their all for our country, and to teach the younger generations what freedom truly costs. It was estimated that 400,000 wreaths would be placed nationwide by over 150,000 volunteers to remember, honor and teach… That same day, the Toy Soldier Run took place up in Ginnie Springs near High Springs in north Florida. The run itself was hosted by the Christian Motorcycle Association of Alachua, Gilchrist, Suwannee and Columbia Counties and collected toys for needy children in those areas. It started at noon, but the after-party lasted well into the night, so much so that Ginnie Springs offered overnight camping at discounted rates. I’m not surprised that many stayed over since there were several food vendors and good bands to enjoy, as well as one of my favorites, Big Engine… And over in Citrus County, folks opened their hearts and wallets to support another toy ride to benefit local foster kids with a run starting at the McDonalds on East Gulf Boulevard and ending at Crystal River Harley-Davidson. Entertainment at the dealership was provided by a group called Charlie C and Remember This. The kids that were hanging around got to enjoy free air rides and hot dogs… Well, that’s about it for the news from O-town and the surrounding area this month. Remember though that there are people who need help year-round, not just at Christmas. There are abused kids and adults, lonely seniors and maybe even a neighbor who could use a helping hand. Until next time, take care and God bless.