Bikers bring gifts to Carson children
Thundering engines seemed to shake the pavement in front of Kmart Sunday morning, as motorcyclists in black leather swarmed for the 17th Annual Carson City Christmas Toy Run.
Throaty V-twins revved louder as noon approached, then the bikes spilled out onto North Carson Street, heading south to the Carson Colony gym.
“We ride these Harley Davidson motorcycles, so we can afford to get some gifts for the kids,” said Don Cassinelli, run coordinator. “There’s nothing like helping kids.”
Cassinelli took over the run from Denise Alvardo, who started it in 1986.
“It started with Denise and me,” said Cassinelli. “I took it over from Denise — she’s retired.”
About 160 riders made the run, compared to some 300 last year. Each brought a gift to donate to local children.
“It’s not a bad day either,” said participant Dennis Johnson of Dayton. “There’s a lot of pretty motorcycles and everybody’s socializing. It’s nice.”
Rider Brian Banducci from the south shore of Lake Tahoe brought a junior sketch and paint set.
“Either they’ll find some paper or the car or a wall — something to draw on,” he joked.
Banducci blamed the cold for the smaller turnout this year.
“Coming over the summit at 60 (mph) — it’s cold,” he said.
Bikers lined South Curry Street with shining chrome bikes and filed into the Colony Gym to hand over their toy donations and enjoy a meal and a beer. The toy collection room, about 8-by-10 feet, was stacked four feet high with gifts. There were action figures, stuffed animals and sporting goods.
“I like the little Harley Davidson model,” said a woman in leathers as she set her gift on the pile.
In the lunch room, riders sat at tables and lined up for beverages.
One colorful rider with patches on his black vest was telling stories about seeing the Grateful Dead back when they were called The Warlocks.
“I saw them up on Mount Tam when the Angels brought them up on their scooters,” he reminisced.
Outside, event co-sponsor and Carson Colony Council Chairman Darriel Bender was soaking in the scene from a van.
“We cater to them,” he said of the bikers. “But everybody works together on this thing.”
Although many of this year’s toys will go to the Washoe Tribe, some will be distributed to other members of the community.
While last year as many as 115 families received gifts, this year Bender and Cassinelli estimated the number as closer to 100.
“There’s a lot of single-parent families we take care of here on the reservation and in Carson City,” said Bender.
He wanted to extend a special thank you to “head cook and bottle washer” Brenda Evans.
Back in the dining hall, Jerry Welch of Carson City, who rides with the Righteous Ones, was enjoying his lunch.
“I’d prefer steak but hot dogs are all right,” he said.
Despite the lower turnout he was happy with the event.
“I’ve seen bigger turnouts but’s it’s good to see people out. And it’s a good cause,” he said.