Jay Flowers remembers as a law enforcement officer watching the long line of motorcycles roaring down the road. In those days, his job was to ensure the bikers remained safe as they traveled the designated route to Mills Home in Thomasville for the annual “Toy Run.”
Flowers has transitioned from spectator to participant since his retirement in 2004. Now, he rides his motorcycle, alongside the hundreds of other bikers, to bring Christmas gifts to Mills Home boys and girls. As president for the past two years of the Concerned Bikers Association of Randolph County (CBA), the group that organizes the charitable ride, Flowers helps lead the annual efforts.
The ride begins in Randolph County and stretches to Davidson County where Mills Home is located. Flowers says the group could not do the ride without the help of Asheboro and Thomasville city police as well as the Randolph and Davidson County sheriff’s departments.
“As a law enforcement officer, I missed the other side of the ride,” he continues. “It gets your heart pounding to see the kids waving as you pull into Mills Home.”
CBA secretary Gena Parker, who has ridden in the Toy Run since 2010, agrees. “It’s really touching when you drive up and see the kids holding up signs to welcome you.”
Parker joined CBA after assisting her parents, who were a part of the group, with a number of events.
“The first time I saw how many people came out for the Toy Run, I knew I wanted to get more involved,” Parker says. “At that time, I really had no idea what it was all about.”
Today, Parker works with Flowers and her father Junior Needham to organize the ride’s logistics and get the word out as the event approaches. She knows the more people that become involved means a bigger ride for the children.
Flowers explains that participation in the Toy Run is not limited to motorcycle riders. “We invite people to drive in their cars. We welcome anybody.”
“A lot of people who don’t have a bike will come by Randolph Mall where we gather and drop off toys or a money donation,” Parker says.
For the 29th annual ride on December 7, more than 2,000 bikes pulled onto the Mills Home campus and more than $9,000 was raised.
“We always pray that the good Lord blesses us with nice weather,” Flowers says. “Weather plays a big part in how many people come out. We don’t have a rain date.”
Bright sunshine and temperatures in the upper 50s resulted in one of the largest rides in recent years. From the lead rider to the last bike, the line measures almost seven-and-a-half miles.
“When the first bikers pulled into Mills Home, the last ones were turning onto Denton Road off Hwy 109,” Flowers says.
The gifts bought by the participants arrive just ahead of the riders. The eyes of Mills Home residents waiting along the sides of the campus streets grow wide when they see the huge transfer truck filled with presents.
Once gifts are sorted by Mills Home staff members and the last motorcycle has parked, everyone gathers inside the campus gymnasium to see residents open presents.
“To go in the gym and see their faces is something else. They’re just thrilled,” Flowers says. “For me, it’s a blessing to witness all this. I think 100% of the bikers feel the same way. It’s so hands on.”
Flowers says that ride is an example of what CBA is all about.
“The word ‘concerned’ in our name says a lot,” he explains. “We are concerned about our community and state where we live. We’re a large body of people coming together to do good.”
“2016 is a big year for the ride – it is the Toy Run’s 30th anniversary,” Parker says. “We haven’t discussed it yet, but we want to make it extra special.”
To become involved, call Gena Parker at 336-963-3438.