Freedom of the Road Riders Betty Adams Memorial toy run benefits The Help Center
The deep-throated bass rumble of exhaust pipes echoes through the crisp coolness of the mid-Missouri morning of Saturday, Nov. 2. The small group of spectators around the courthouse square waits in an excited hush as the sound comes closer and then the parade of bikes comes into view.
The riders are participants in the Freedom of the Road Riders (FORR) Local # 13 (Mexico)'s annual Betty Adams Memorial Toy Run benefitting The Help Center of Mexico. The parade includes 50 motor bikes with approximately 135 people total involved and riding on floats or in support vehicles. One vehicle tows a trailer loaded with toys of all kinds for needy or less fortunate community children.
The parade makes a single circuit of the square and then heads to The Help Center to unload. Everyone pitches in with the unloading at The Help Center and the work is quickly completed. From the start of the parade to the last item unloaded, the time is less than 45 minutes at most. To the outsider looking in, the successful event seemed effortless.
The time, energy, effort, and work that go into making this event a success, however, deserves a closer look. FORR Local # 13 has held the annual event on the first weekend in November since 1989. Planning for the event almost begins after the previous one concludes. Throughout the year, the group sponsors several fundraising events to facilitate the purchase of the toys. Word of mouth, social media, and old-fashioned flyers around town and at other events make up the majority of the advertising for the event.
Plenty of action happens the morning of the event too. On Nov. 2, this year's participants began gathering at the Missouri Veteran's Home at around 10 a.m. to place the toys on the trailer and receive last minute route instructions. Several riders had ridden in the night before from such places as Linn and West Plains just to attend this event. There were several local families, including children and young grandchildren, actively involved with the event.
The gathering had an almost family reunion feel as the riders laughed, joked, and remembered earlier Toy Runs or other events. Close to noon, FORR Local # 13 president Ronnie 'Rock' Palmer gathered the group around the flagpole for a few words. Before instructions were given, the group said the pledge of allegiance and observed a moment of silence in honor of those who passed on.
Palmer thanked the group for attending. "We are here for the kids," he said. "We are here because we want to help them be happy and enjoy life."
The toys will be distributed through The Help Center's Adopt-a-Child Program. Parents/legal guardians may apply for holiday asistance for children (age birth-16) who live in Audrain County now through Nov. 27.
"We are a group of hardworking, every day type of people who want to help out, people who, oh by the way, enjoy riding bikes," FORR Local # 13 secretary Dee Herdeg said. "Just because we ride bikes doesn't mean we don't care."