The 2020 Eldridge Toy Run set a fundraising record in the midst of the pandemic.
More than $100,000 has been raised for the Alabama Free Will Baptist Children's Home each year for the last four years with approximately $90,000 being collected the day of the event, according to Shirl Ganey, an Eldridge Toy Run committee member.
This year, over $105,000 was collected during the ride on Dec. 5, 2020, and the current total stands at $118,000.
"We are pleased to announce that a new record has been broken, despite the Covid pandemic, through the hard work of our volunteers, through the generosity of our donors and sponsors, through the blood, sweat and tears that have been shed in the effort to make this event happen during such trying times," Ganey wrote in a letter of thanks submitted to the Daily Mountain Eagle.
The Eldridge Toy Run has been held on the first Saturday in December each year since 2003. Riders come from all over the Southeast. This year, the award for longest distance went to a group of riders from the Nashville area.
Opened in 1947, the Children's Home is a ministry of the Alabama State Association of Free Will Baptists and licensed by the Alabama Department of Human Resources. According to the website, it serves youth ages 6 to 18 who are "struggling with life’s challenges and turbulent domestic situations."
Precautions were taken this year to protect the health and safety of participants.
Masks were worn while inside the building, a tent was rented to allow for additional seating and social distancing and port-a-potties were used instead of indoor restrooms.
"We all have our own opinions on how the world is handling the 'Covid Crisis' and we know some of these precautions may be inconvenient, but we do ask for your patience and understanding. Our primary focus and concern is raising the funds needed to sustain the Home and take care of these children," a message posted on the event website read.
The children who reside at the home waved from a distance as hundreds of riders arrived on motorcycles and in antique cars.
The traditional gift exchange and meal were again part of this year's event.
"Each child living in the home received Christmas gifts and was able to visit with their sponsors. Even those children who were under quarantine were able to sit outside and open their gifts while their sponsors watched from a distance. Smiles and laughter, as well as tears were shed together that day," Ganey wrote.
The Eldridge Toy Run Coordinators Committee members expressed their thanks to all who took part in the event.
The 2020 Golden Sponsors were Nick’s Kids Foundation (Tuscaloosa), John and Charlene Powell (Stecoah, N.C.), City Cleaners (Hamilton), Tony Terry (Northport), Fontaine Fabrication (Haleyville), 8-Ball Memorial Ride (Amory, Miss.), New Hope Baptist ( Haleyville), Scott Frederick (Haleyville), Al. Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, Winston County Grays (Haleyville), Paul Faucett Logging (Winfield), Gintown Lowlife Society (Birmingham), Wal-Mart Foundation #409 (Haleyville), Luke Bozeman (Millport), Ricky Grace (Jasper), Eddie Lindsey (Winfield), Trinity Assembly of God (Red Bay), West Alabama Raised Riders (Fayette), Jasper Men’s Chorale (Jasper), Warrior Roofing (Duane Cunningham) (Tuscaloosa), Jenny Brooks Johnson Order of Confederate Rose Chapter 18, E-Z Mart/ Navaho Gas (Haleyville) and Frank Collins (Berry).
"Thanks to everyone involved! Without you, none of this would have been made possible. But most of all, we thank God for what He is doing in the lives of these children at the Alabama Free Will Baptist Children's Home located in Eldridge, Alabama," Ganey wrote.