RED SPRINGS — In 1999, two Red Springs couples wanted to do something for needy children at Christmas.
In the intervening years, Bob and Elnora Hollingsworth along with Tommy and Becky Lewis have done that and more. The group has organized a fundraiser that has put toys in the hands of thousands of area children.
The effort will returns weekend. On Saturday, the annual Red Springs Toy Run will get started at the Red Springs Fire Department.
“This event began with 75 bikers and last year we had 375 bikers,” Bob Hollingsworth said. “Everybody in town gets involved. People get lawn chairs sit on the side of the road and watch us go by.”
In the past, the lineup has been as long as three miles.
“I’ve been told that the Red Springs Toy Run is one of the largest such events in Southeastern North Carolina,” Hollingsworth said.
The fee for riding in the toy run is one new, unwrapped toy or a cash donation for toys.
“People can give as little or as much as they want,” Hollingsworth said.
Riders will meet at the Red Springs Fire Department at 9 a.m. and kick stands will go up at 11 a.m.
“It is a sight to see hundreds of bikes in a line leaving out of here,” Tommy Lewis said. “It will take us 10 minutes to get out of the parking lot. It is really something.”
The bike run is escorted by police through each county.
“We design the route, so that we’re making all right-hand turns,” Hollingsworth said. “That way we’re not crossing traffic or interrupting any flows of traffic.”
The bikers ride from Red Springs to Pembroke, then up U.S. 74 to Laurinburg. In Laurinburg there is a stop at Golden Corral to take a break.
“The restaurant hosts us for nothing, which is great,” Hollingsworth said. “We stay there about 30 minutes before moving on.”
From there, the route continues to Raeford, with the final stop in Red Springs.
“We have a chase pick-up truck with a trailer that follows behind us on the route,” Hollingsworth said. “This is in case one of the bikers breaks down or runs out of gas.”
The bikers are escorted back into town and feted with a cookout at the Red Springs Fire Department.
There are organizations that donate the food for the event and toys for the children.
Mountaire Farms donated bicycles for the children and Boles Funeral Home donated tricycles and wagons.
Any proceeds raised are used to purchase toys.
Hollingsworth said that the toys are given to the police departments in Red Springs, Lumberton, Laurinburg, Pembroke, Raeford, as well as the Department of Social Services in Lumberton. The community delivers the toys to the children.
“We can’t solve the problems of the world,” Hollingsworth said, “but we can make sure that a kid gets something for Christmas.”
For information, call Bob or Elnora Hollingsworth a, 910-734-3903, or 910-843-9991 or Tommy Lewis at 910-733-3467.