Costs put Fraser Valley Toy Run in jeopardy

Organizers say rising expenses are putting event's future in doubt.

The Fraser Valley Toy Run generally attracts some 800 riders

Red tape and increased costs are causing organizers of the Fraser Valley Toy Run to question whether to continue hosting the annual event.

If the weather is poor, like this year’s dampened attendance of just 150 riders, there are not enough donations to cover rising expenses.

The annual social motorcycle ride, which collects items for Christmas bureaus in the Fraser Valley, leaves from meeting points in Mission and Chiliwack. Usually, 800 to 900 riders converge at the Ag-Rec Building in Abbotsford for coffee and donuts, a 50/50 and other draws. All participants bring a new toy for the Christmas Bureau, and there are cash donations – all collected and distributed to needy children and families in Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Hope and Agassiz.

It was first organized by Mission’s Ma and Pa Hopkins (Lenore and Barney, late of Mission) 26 toy runs ago. They had attended a similar event for Vancouver Christmas charities, and decided the Fraser Valley needed its own.

However, organizers say that since 2010 their costs have increased dramatically. The charge to rent the Ag-Rec Building has gone from approximately $400 to about $1,300.

At one time, event volunteers assisted police in traffic control. Now, organizers must submit a traffic plan and hire a flagging company at a cost of approximately $1,500 for the day.

Rhonda Santini said these costs are frustrating, because they detract from the amount donated to the Christmas Bureau.

“It’s a total charity event – everything goes to the kids,” she said.

She noted Universal Flagging already gives the event a reduced rate on its services.

Barney Hopkins Jr. is among those who have taken over running the event from his parents. He explained that if the run gets 800 riders, as it does many years, it is still worthwhile, even with the added costs. If it rains, as it did this year, and only 150 riders show up, organizers struggle to cover costs.

He feels the Ag-Rec Building should be available to such a charity event free of charge.

“What is that building for – a money-maker, or for the community?”

The Toy Run had been overcharged for the rental of Ag-Rec, and the bill was adjusted, but only by $116. Traffic control is administered by the Abbotsford Police, and is not a city hall issue.

The event is one of the major contributors for the Abbotsford Christmas Bureau.

“These guys – I can’t tell you how hard they work,” said Dave Murray, the Abbotsford Food Bank manager, which also operates the Christmas Bureau.

He said on a typical year the event generates close to 1,000 new toys for Fraser Valley children, and between $6,000 and $10,000 in cash. The small turnout for this year’s run has the Christmas Bureau behind.

“It’s a blow to us,” said Murray, adding the shortfall can only be made up  through donations.

“We’ll see if the community steps up.”