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Everybody needs
a buddy!

Pics below from Jan 12 at Vieng Ping orphanage

Feeding frenzy
for 500 toys

Leader Robert
with the last toys

Thumb-wrestling competition!

The final bout

Happy winners
with big buddies!

PROJECTS: Chiang Mai ToyRide 2008

A Smashing Success without a Smash!
Two months before the first Chiang Mai ToyRide 2008 on 6 January, Robert called me with plans for the ride that did not include a set date, a logo or an organization to handle the charity activities for the event. He did have, however, an overdeveloped heart and a committee with similar attributes. And they all had a dream: give toys and stuffed animals to disadvantaged children. Somehow we all pulled it together and had a grand event, although two months ago, Robert was 50-something and now he’s at least 60-something.

About 160 bikes of all sizes, though heavy in the big bike category, met at Tesco Khamtien at 10 a.m. to begin the ToyRide around the moat, around the Samoeng loop and finally gathering at Huay Tung Tao Lake for an afternoon of food, music, festivities, games and most importantly, a presentation of toys to children from two local orphanages: Ponsawan Community Development Center in Sansai and Children’s Garden orphanage near Doi Saket. (While Robert, the leader of the pack, was getting ready to ride, all of the bikes left without him in the lead. This may be responsible for one year of his recent aging.)

Admission price: one toy! The only requirement for participation was for everyone to bring a new toy and deposit it on the burgeoning pile of bears, trucks, dolls and games, that continued to grow along with the kids’ eyes with visions of whic toy might be theirs. The park was filled with celebrities: Santa rode in, Spiderman lurked on a Harley, and the Pink Panther gave the audience a respectful wai.

Music, food, kid relays and fun!
Everyone was in a spirited mood while circulating through the vendors, marveling at Joker Man the Clown’s balloon artistry, chowing down on the complementary food donated by the Imperial Mae Ping, checking out live music on stage and watching a hyperactive two-year-old snatching stuffed animals larger than her from the pile, while her mother raced after trying to catch her, perhaps wishing she had a large roll of duct tape so she could tape her daughter to a tree.

The highlight of the afternoon was certainly when all the kids finally got to approach the toys just before they actually exploded with excitement, and though we tried to organize it orderly by age, soon they all dived in. A couple of the first littlest kids choose the biggest stuffed animals that were a few centimeters taller than Robert. The aforementioned two-year-old literally did dive in, swimming through the toys doing the Australian crawl and the Thai backstroke, while flinging toys into the air with reckless abandon. Her life will be downhill from that moment of complete joy, a joy that transferred to the hearts of everyone watching.

The ToyRide committee represented bikers, non-bikers and several countries, though all make their home in Chiang Mai: Robert Straghan, retired Canadian engineer and avid petrol head; Ritchy Wilson, American owner of Richco Motorsports, who will powder coat your bike, your industrial machinery or your neighbor’s unruly pets; David Unkovich from Down Under, Mr. G-T Rider Himself, map-maker and author of A Motorcycle Guide to the Golden Triangle; Ian Rauner, the Kiwi rider and God of Bungy from Chiang Mai X-Centre; Brit Charles Begley, non-rider proprietor of Tusker’s Bar and founder of the charity EleAid, which helps Asian elephants; Martin Titheridge, British English teacher, owner of PM Restaurant and scooter rider; and displaced American Scott Jones, chairman/founder of the nonprofit Give and Live, musician, writer, cross-biker (Harley or Honda) and human being, not necessarily in that order.

Numbers? 200-some bikes came to the lake and more than 300 folks partied till 5 p.m. including the 70 orphans and their caretakers. No one counted the toys, but there were plenty left for another presentation event with an ice cream truck, soda, Joker Man, toy presentation and thumb-wrestling tournament at the Girls’ Home at Vieng Ping orphanage on Saturday, Jan 12th for National Children’s Day.

Vieng Ping on Jan 12, next stop: local hospitals. Through personal donations, vendor support and business sponsorships such as Harley Davidson Bangkok, Tesco Lotus, Discovery Moto Tours and Richco Motorsports, we raised an additional 150,000 baht, which will soon renovate larger playground equipment in desperate need of repair at Vieng Ping as well as fund more toys for the kids at the Boys’ Home and for lonely children in area hospitals. The funds and toy presentation events are handled by the nonprofit Give and Live, which matched donations up to a total of 20,000 baht.

2009 will be even better! We’re planning next year’s event when we’ll try to remember to auction Ritchy’s powder coating that was donated but not auctioned this year for a very simple reason, although we haven’t figured out why yet. (Robert, David and I can blame it on age and memory loss, but not the rest of the committee.) Next year we need to get an invitation to every Honda Dream rider in Chiang Mai, which should boost our attendance to seventeen million. More photos at Please join us next year!

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© 2007 by Give and Live, Minnetonka MN, USA