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Bikers ride for charity during 21st HardTimes Benefit for Kids

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

When Santa Claus arrives on Christmas Eve, he will quietly land on rooftops and slide down chimneys to leave presents for good girls and boys.

But a group of his helpers came to Clarksburg Sunday in anything but silent fashion.

The thunder of motorcycle engines roared through the streets of the city as about 50 of them wrapped up the 21st HardTimes Benefit for Kids annual toy run.

"We do this every year," said Mickey Cochran, the organization's president for 2000.

About 100 people on about 50 motorcycles gathered at South Harrison High School for the run. They left at about noon for the trip to the Harrison County Courthouse in Clarksburg.

The entry fee was a toy.

"We're coming in to town today to bring toys to kids all over the county," said Tom Bennett, who dressed like Santa and led the pack of motorcycles into town. "I feel real good about this."

Some of the bikers had stuffed animals and other toys strapped to the seats behind them. At least one pulled a trailer that was filled with toys.

Once the cycles were parked along Main Street, the bikers unloaded their packages and placed them under the county Christmas tree.

Although the toy run has become a popular event for area bikers, it is not the only way they work to help kids at Christmas, Cochran said.

"We do fund raising all year long to raise money to spend at this time of the year to make sure the kids have a nice Christmas," he said.

This year the organization raised more than $7,000, which is about what they raise most years, Cochran said.

They also get help from individuals and groups, Cochran said. The Harrison County Dart League donated toys and the band "Evolution" made a cash donation to the cause.

On Dec. 4, the bikers will take the money to Wal-Mart to purchase the bulk of their Christmas presents, Cochran said.

The toys gathered during Sunday's run and those bought at Wal-Mart will be taken to a warehouse where they will be sorted and packaged according to age and gender, Cochran said.

They then will be given to families in need that have been pre-selected with the help of Harrison County schools, he said.

HardTimes is part of the U.S. Marine Corps Foundation's Toys for Tots program.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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