The Franklin Toy Project got off to roaring start Saturday afternoon, as a caravan or motorcyclists streamed from Carrabelle to Apalachicola comprised of some cool cats on bikes, and two little dogs.
A Yorkiepoo rescue dog named Bella rode secure in a padded pouch on Dan Wagner’s Harley Davidson Fat Boy. On his wife Carol’s three-wheeled Harley Trike motorcycle, Shadow, also three years old, rode in comfort in a similar carrier.
Dan said the two dogs rode all the way down from Louisville, Ky. when the Wagners brought their bikes down in July to their St. George Island home. He said Bella doesn’t ever drive, “but she does point out things of interest, though. She’s a good dog, a very good dog.”
Carol said she has seen a growing number of bikers traveling with the pets, with all sorts of amenities. “We got rain covers that will go over them, too,” she said.
She said she often puts a pair of Doggles sunglasses on Shadow, “but he won’t wear them all the time I go over 35 mph and he ducks down.”
A retired pool flight engineer for United Parcel Service, Dan got his bike in 2013, and bought his wife her trike two years later. “He traded in his UltraClassic so I could have a bike,” said Carol.
St. George Island fire chief Jay Abbott, who has helped organize the annual Ride for Toys for the past five year, said “it was a good ride, with 25 bikes and 35 people taking part.”
He said a dozen bikers took part from Tallahassee, many from the Iron Ravens motorcycle club. He said another half-dozen came from St. George Island, while others hailed from Apalachicola, Carrabelle, Eastpoint and Port St. Joe.
“It’s all about the kids. It’s all about helping the kids,” said Abbott. “A lot of them donated money, and most brought wrapped toys.” He said Franklin County bikers will reciprocate the favor by taking part on a Dec. 1 bike run in Wakulla County.
Abbott said organizers plan to expand the ride next year, which this year was moved up a week, to the third weekend in November. “We hope to see it grow,” he said.
The caravan was escorted by volunteers from the St. George Island fire department, from the Carrabelle IGA to Veterans Memorial Plaza in Apalachicola, where participants enjoyed a fried chicken lunch at Chapman Botanical Gardens.
Toy project organizer Beth Brinkley said all donations will be used to buy toys at the Kmart in Panama City, which had been helpful in providing easy access and discounts to the project organizers. She said that the buyers try to spend about $20 to $25 per child.