Toy Run organizers say costly government demands jeopardize future of event

Hundreds of motorcyclists expected to take part in the 29th annual Fraser Valley Toy Run this weekend.

Hundreds of motorcyclists are expected to take part in the Fraser Valley Toy Run on Sunday.

Hundreds of motorcyclists are expected to roll through Mission, Chilliwack and Abbotsford this Sunday for the 29th annual Fraser Valley Toy Run, but organizers say increased demands by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation are jeopardizing the future of the event.

Every year, motorcyclists gather in Mission and Chilliwack, and ride to Abbotsford bearing more than 1,000 gifts for children in need. Last year, around 1,500 toys were collected, and a further $20,000 was donated to Christmas organizations in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Mission, Agassiz and Hope.

But in recent years, the toy run has seen costs increase, and organizers have had to contract a private company to handle traffic control, which was once handled by volunteers, at a cost of more than $2,000. This year, because of increased demands by the Ministry of Transportation, that total is slated to double, according to Barney Hopkins, who co-founded the event.

Hopkins said the ministry is requiring the private company – rather than the Mission RCMP – to guide bikers through the intersection of Highways 7 and 11 as riders depart Mission. Every intersection must also now be controlled by a professional, rather than volunteers, and a detailed traffic plan through all three communities is now required.

“The costs are getting worse and I don’t know how long we are going to keep this toy run going for because everything’s getting so expensive,” Hopkins said.

Participants raise funds throughout the year with bottle drives, bake sales and raffles. But the mounting expenses are taking its toll.

“It’s getting more and more expensive for what is needed and what is required. Every year something new comes up that we have to struggle with,” organizer Rhonda Santini said. “It’s stressful and ongoing and it keeps taking more and more away from the kids and riders.”

She said riders want to be safe, but that the volunteer-driven approach had been working fine with only slightly fewer bikes taking part.

Despite the hurdles, organizers are expecting a good turnout on Sunday, Oct. 18 thanks to a decent weather forecast. Between 700 and 800 bikers are expected to participate. Two separate groups of riders will depart from the parking lot of Value Village in Mission at 9:45 a.m., and from the Sears parking lot in Chilliwack at 9:30 a.m.. They will join up at the Fraser Valley Auto Mall, and arrive at the Ag-Rec Building shortly after 10 a.m. Everyone is invited to stop by the Ag-Rec building, watch the bikes arrive and donate an unwrapped toy.

The Ministry of Transportation released a statement saying: “As we have in years past, the ministry looks forward to working with the toy run organizers and discussing their Traffic Management Plan in more detail. Our goal with any large events like parades, toy drives or demonstrations is to keep pedestrians and the travelling public safe, and to ensure drivers aren’t faced with excessive and unexpected delays.”