On a roll
Neighbors: Profiles of our community
They’re ready to rumble — and all for a good cause.
On the morning of Sunday, Dec. 16, the Azeka Shopping Center parking lot will become a sea of chrome, leather and red Santa hats. That’s when motorcycle enthusiasts of all stripes will rev their engines and ride en masse from Kihei to Lahaina — with Barbies, board games and baseball gloves strapped to their bikes.
Now in its 17th year, the Street Bikers United (SBU) Maui Chapter Toy Run and Parade is an annual event that supports the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program by rounding up thousands of Christmas gifts for kids who may not otherwise receive one.
This year, hundreds of bikers will converge on the makai (oceanside) Azeka Shopping Center in Kihei at 8 a.m. for pre-parade festivities, which include live entertainment, a classic car show and a bicycle giveaway (more than a dozen deserving children will receive brand-new bikes and helmets).
Then, it’s kickstands up. Led by the Maui Fire Department, the procession will wind its way along the Honoapiilani Highway to Lahaina, where a Salvation Army truck will be awaiting the bikers’ arrival at the Minit Stop on Kupuohi Street. Once the toys are handed off to the Salvation Army (which then distributes them to families registered for the Toys for Tots program), the convoy will head back to Kihei for a celebratory after-party at the VFW Hall.
If that sounds like a lot to pack into a single day — well, you’re right. “It takes months to plan,” said Jackie Foster, SBU Maui Chapter secretary. It’s no small feat, she said, “But it’s 100 percent worth it. Kids are only kids once, so it’s a privilege to be able to provide them with happiness every year.”
Foster, along with SBU Maui Chapter President Ron Panzo, Vice President Allan Raikes and Treasurer Larry Arevalo, will make sure this year’s event goes off without a hitch.
And they’ve been down this road before: Foster, Panzo, Raikes and Arevalo have participated in the toy run and parade more times than they can count. “I look forward to it every year,” Raikes said. “It feels good to do good.”
On top of managing the moving parts, both literally and figuratively, of the motorcycle parade, Foster, Panzo, Raikes and Arevalo oversee the placement of “toy box” collection bins at local businesses and condominium complexes; this year, they started picking up donated items in mid-November.
Founded in 1947 by U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Bill Hendricks, Toys for Tots has brightened the holidays for countless kids across the country. Run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, the program teams up with partners like the Salvation Army to collect and distribute toys; its fundraising arm, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, was established in 1991.
Like the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, the SBU Maui Chapter is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The membership-based organization works to protect and advance the interests of all motorcyclists in the political process, while giving back to the community in myriad ways.
It may be best known for its annual toy run and parade, but that’s only a fraction of what the group does for the community.
This year alone, among other things, SBU Maui Chapter members distributed hundreds of Thanksgiving meals to families on Maui and Molokai; raised more than $5,000 for the Pacific Cancer Foundation in a single evening; and provided hundreds of backpacks — filled with everything from pencils to notebooks to rulers to rubber slippers — to students on Maui and Molokai through its annual “Tools 4 Schools” school supply drive.
And chapter members’ efforts are not limited to Maui County. Earlier this year, they mobilized to collect school supplies for students living on Kauai’s flood-ravaged north shore. They also rallied to raise $10,000 to help build temporary housing for Puna residents displaced by the Kilauea volcano eruption.
“We are not just an organization of motorcycle enthusiasts, but are a dedicated group of local citizens who care deeply about our community and those less fortunate,” Panzo said. “Living aloha is the core value of Street Bikers United.”
The 2018 Street Bikers United Maui Chapter Toy Run and Parade is open to all motorcycle enthusiasts. Participants are asked to bring a new, unwrapped gift for children of any age — from infants to toddlers to tweens and teens. The Salvation Army will receive and distribute the toys as Christmas gifts; SBU Maui Chapter members will deliver any surplus items to local nonprofit organizations that assist families in need.
No bike? No problem. All residents are invited to attend the after-party at the VFW Hall in Kihei. And there’s still time to contribute to the toy drive. To donate a new, unwrapped toy or to volunteer your business as a toy box collection site, visit www.mauitoys4tots.org or contact Foster at 359-1617 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Street Bikers United Maui Chapter or to inquire about membership opportunities, visit sbumaui.org/wp/.
* Sarah Ruppenthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at email@example.com. Neighbors and “The State of Aloha,” written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.