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OHIO - 22nd annual toy run has unexpected twist


Mayor Mike Bell and organizer Michael Wenzel, left, were among only a handful of riders who made it to the children’s clinic during the run, which was led by a fire truck. ‘How do you miss a great big fire truck?’ the mayor wondered. THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

Jean Drees and a small group of children stood excitedly on a driveway in West Toledo Sunday as they waited to welcome about 1,000 motorcyclists riding in the annual Bikers of Northwest Ohio Toy Run.
Down the driveway came Toledo Mayor Mike Bell and event organizer Mike “Big Mike” Wenzel, looking brawny and tough on their Harley-Davidsons. Behind them came Santa Claus in a fire truck, seemingly hot in his bulky red costume.
Then, along West Central Avenue, roared the hundreds of other motorcyclists taking part in the Toy Run. But instead of turning into the driveway, as planned, to visit a children’s health clinic, the bikers kept riding on down the avenue and into the midday sun.
“Oh, my life, this is just hilarious!” exclaimed Ms. Drees, marketing director for Harbor, a mental health agency that receives money and toys from the event. It was certainly an unexpected twist to the toy run’s 22nd year. The bikers, who were riding across town from the Toledo Speedway, were expected to stop at Harbor’s new developmental and behavioral pediatrics center and then head back to the starting point for hot dogs and beer. But, according to organizers and sheriff’s deputies monitoring the event, the riders mistakenly followed the wrong person and ended up missing the turn.
After about 20 minutes, it was clear the riders weren’t coming back.
The error mystified everyone who stood waiting for them, including Mayor Bell, who after participating in the run for several years couldn’t believe what had happened.
“How do you miss a great big fire truck?” he wondered incredulously. “There’s never been a time when they have not followed the fire truck.”
Mr. Wenzel, who started the event in 1989 with just 46 people, sat forlornly on a picnic bench.
“Yes, I’m disappointed,” he said from behind dark shades. “I don’t really have an explanation for it. I don’t know where anybody is. All I know is, I’m here.”
As it turned out, most of the riders had headed back to the Speedway, oblivious they’d missed anything at all.
“Where were we supposed to stop?” asked a confused 26-year-old Erika Beach of Sylvania, who a little while later was drinking beer with her friend, Becky Connors of Toledo, at the Speedway Bar & Grill. Both women, and several other bikers, said they had no idea they were supposed to turn off at the Harbor clinic.
“I was just following in the middle of the group,” said 53-year-old Efrain Bernal with a shrug. “I don’t know where the stop was. We just came out for the ride.”
Not that the glitches took away from the success of Sunday’s event. Ms. Drees estimated the rally raised more than $20,000, which will be used to buy Christmas presents for Harbor’s young patients, and to furnish the developmental center’s waiting room with specialized toys. The facility, which is slated to open in January, will provide care for children with autism and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“Many of the kids have trouble sitting still and [the toys] will make the waiting room more comfortable for them,” Ms. Drees explained.
She said the toy run turnout was phenomenal, something she attributed to Sunday’s good weather.
“It’s always a lot of fun, especially when the weather’s likethis. It’s relaxing,” said Bernice Reamsnyder of Oregon, who at 75 is not about to let age slow her down.
Her partner, George Paschen, 77, was equally enthusiastic.
“It’s really for a good cause, that’s the main thing,” he said. “You can’t do enough for kids.”

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