For the second year in a row, Del Mar will host a “Toys for Tots” motorcycle ride and gift-gathering program as part of a highly successful U.S. Marine Corps-backed charity event that has been ongoing for more than 70 years.
The hometown Marines – many of whom will be onsite in their sharp dress blues -- again will be backed in their “Toys for Tots” event by the El Cajon Harley Owners Group (HOG), which is sponsored by El Cajon-Harley-Davidson. The HOG crew believes they will have as many as 600-plus riders on board – twice the number that came last year -- for their approximately 28-mile bike run from El Cajon to Del Mar.
Previously, the “Toys for Tots” program in San Diego had their major local event with the San Diego Chargers football team. But when the team chose to move to Los Angeles last year, Del Mar stepped in and took on the role of host destination. The track’s fans, horsemen and staff personnel proved to be exceptionally generous and the Marines outdid the previous Charger events with over 2,500 toys collected and more than $8,600 in donations to the “Toys” program.
The HOG crew, consisting of a collection of “iron horse” riders from multiple biker groups and chapters in the area and led by a pair of retired Marines in Mike Harris and Jay Anderson, will conduct an opportunity drawing and silent auction during the afternoon at the track’s Corona Beach House with 100% of the proceeds going to the Marines for the local “Toys” program.
Racing fans who bring a new unwrapped toy to the track this Sunday earmarked for the event will receive free admission. Cash or check donations also will be accepted by uniformed Marines and sailors on hand manning the “Toy” collection boxes.
Del Mar’s point person for the event – customer service supervisor Sheryl Kerstiens – said the track and “Toys for Tots” fit together like a hand in a glove.
“We were delighted with the result last year and so were the “Toys for Tots” Marines,” Kerstiens enthused. “Working with wonderful people for a wonderful cause is just the best. We believe this event will grow and grow at Del Mar.”
Del Mar staff will join this year with a collection of area Marines including the Toys for Tots San Diego coordinator, Staff Sergeant Jeff Cantu, and Marines and sailors from the Marine Corps Reserves 4th Medical Battalion and 4th Tank Battalion.
Providing a special touch to the afternoon will be an appearance by the 1st Marine Division Band. Last year a Marine band from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing earned a rousing cheer from the Del Mar crowd with a stirring rendition of “God Bless America.”
The Marine Corps is justly proud of “Toys for Tots,” which is calls its premier community action program and America’s most popular Children’s Christmastime Charity. Their records indicate that currently they collect an average 18 million toys for seven million children-in-need annually throughout 800 communities in the United States and U. S. Territories. Since its start in 1947, they estimate they have assisted more than 244 million children, providing toys and hope at a special time of year.