MYRTLE CREEK — With some help from Santa, the 19th Annual South County Toy Run will take place on Dec. 10, beginning in Myrtle Creek.

Run organizers are inviting those with motorcycles, cars and four-wheel-drive vehicles to join the ride that’s held to raise gifts for South County children in need.

Toy Run organizer Keith Burton said it was all about the kids.

“When we were kids we never went without, so we want to help out kids around here who don’t have anything,” Burton said. “The meaning of Christmas is about the kids.”

Burton’s wife, Stephanie, and his parents, Colleen and Russell Burton, of Myrtle Creek also help with organizing the event. In the past, the run has attracted people from as far away as Eugene and the coast.

“We’ve had anywhere from 125 to 330 people show up over the years,” Keith Burton said, “We had about 32 people show up when it snowed a couple times.”

Doors open for the event at 9 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Pizza Palace, 919 Highway 99, Myrtle Creek.

Free coffee, tea, hot chocolate, muffins, and donuts will be available early for riders. At 11 a.m., the ride will begin with Santa Claus leading the way.

“All you have to do is bring a new unwrapped toy or a $10 donation,” Keith Burton said. This year he reported a shortage of girl toys for all ages of girls.

At Pizza Palace, the toys are placed in a pickup truck and participants are given a card in exchange for their toys and donations. The card is full of tickets for door prizes given away at the end of the ride.

The run is about an hour long and heads south through Tri City and Riddle going to Canyonville and then returning to the Myrtle Creek Fire Department. There riders partake in door prizes, 50/50 drawings and all the free food they can eat consisting of hot dogs, chili, soft drinks and soups.

To prepare for the run, Keith Burton and his family spend about a month raising a couple thousand toys to give to children in Myrtle Creek, Riddle, Tri City, Tiller, Milo, Canyonville and Glendale.

Organizers also strive to raise funds to purchase clothing or other items of necessity like shoes for teenagers. The Cow Creek Tribe of Umpqua Indians also donates funds to assist with the toy drive.

The toys are delivered to the Myrtle Creek Fire Department that then distributes the toys to local families in need of gifts for their children and teens.

Keith Smethers of Glide will lead the run dressed as Santa Claus this year. He enjoys the ride because “it helps us give back to the community and we help out the kids,” he said. Also, “it’s a fun ride, a lot of great people show up and it’s well organized.”

For more information about the run or to make a donation, call Colleen Burton at 541-863-4087.

Reporter Vera Westbrook can be reached at 541-957-4216 or vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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Education and Arts and Entertainment Reporter

Vera Westbrook is the education, nonprofits, and arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at 541-957-4216 or by email at vwestbrook@nrtoday.com.

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