Bikers from across central Arkansas will ride into Conway next weekend to deliver hundreds of toys for area children during the 18th annual Conway Regional Toy Run.
Beginning a noon on Dec. 15, bikers will start to line up at Landers Toad Suck Harley Davidson at 1110 Collier Drive, located just off Museum Road in Conway, to mingle, get family photos taken with Santa and wait as the rest of the crowd rides in.
Once the clock strikes 2 p.m., the bikers will prepare to ride in a convoy to Conway Regional Medical Center to deliver the collected toys to hospital staff.
"No child should be in the hospital without a toy," program co-founder and organizer Steve "Painter" Polk said. "We do this to help the kids. All of this is to make sure every child that comes through this hospital receives a toy."
The run is not limited to bikers. Everyone is invited to drive behind the rally in their vehicles so that they can drop their toys off in front of the Christmas tree at Conway Regional on Dec. 15.
In 2017, more than 100 bikers participated in the event, collecting and donating 615 toys for sick children.
The Conway Regional Toy Run is an initiative that started in 2000 when Polk wanted to bring a gift to a child in the hospital.
Polk, a corporate aircraft painter who retired from Dassault Falcon Jet, had a friend whose child was in the hospital. When he asked the child where he played and if the hospital had any toys he was able to play with, Polk learned the hospital did not have the budget to buy the children toys.
Polk and four of his friends — Vicki and Ross Scalise and Mike and Roxanne Ford — banded together to form what became the hospital’s inaugural toy run.
Conway Regional spokesman John Patton said the toys collected by the bikers are used to disperse among pediatric patients at the hospital throughout the year.
Since the toy run began 17 years ago, it has grown extensively.
Staying at the hospital can be terrifying for young children, Polk said, and the toys provided by local bikers bring a calming factor to an otherwise scary and stressful situation. Even those children who are at the hospital with family can receive a toy through the efforts of this program.
Patton said toys can also be dropped off at the Harley Davidson dealership or at Conway Regional's east lobby beforehand, noting that donations must be unwrapped. Toys provided must be appropriate for children 6 months old up to 16 years of age.
"The Toy Run collects an assortment of toys for children who are patients in the Pediatrics Unit," Patton said. "Toys are also distributed to children in the emergency department as well as in the Women's Center."
To learn more about the drive, call Polk at 501-472-1628 or visit the group's Facebook page online.