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Motorcycles are lined up at a gas station on state Highway 55 in Paynesville in this photo from the 2004 toy run for the Shriners Hospital. This year is the 25th year of the event. Registration begins at 11 a.m. Sunday at Robbins Island in Willmar, and the ride starts at 1 p.m. Submitted photo by Dave Stuhr

Annual motorcycle ride celebrates 25 years

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For the past 24 summers, the Willmar Area Shrine Club has organized a motorcycle ride for charity, and this summer will be no different.

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The Shriners will host its 25th annual motorcycle toy run starting at 1 p.m. Sunday. Registration will take that morning from 11 a.m.-12:45 p.m. The ride will begin at Robbins Island Park on North Highway 71 in Willmar. Cost to enter the motorcycle toy run is one unwrapped toy. All toy donations go to the Shriners Hospital for Children in the Twin Cities.

"One of our main toy-raisers for this hospital is from this toy run," said Ron Breberg, a member of the hospital's board of governors and the Willmar Area Shrine Club.

Breberg said each year at Christmas, the Shriners' Ladies General Auxiliary delivers toys at the Shriners Hospital in the Twin Cities. The hospital serves not only Minnesota, but also North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, upper Michigan and part of Canada. The next closest Shriners Hospitals are in Chicago and Salt Lake City.

"All those Shriners clubs in those areas have their different fundraisers for our hospital, and some of them have toy runs, but none of them are as big as the one in Willmar," Breberg said.

The motorcycle toy run started when the Lake Region Harley Owners Group chapter decided to plan a benefit and needed a benefactor. One of the members had a relative who had used the Shriners Hospital's services, Joe Apol, owner of Apol's Harley-Davidson Inc., said.

The Lake Region Harley Owners Group chapter ran the event for 10 years, before turning it over to the Willmar Area Shrine Club.

"We still support it," Apol said. "There are a lot of people in Kandiyohi County, and in Raymond, that have used the services of the Shriners Hospital for Children. It's a wonderful thing if you can't afford the services your child needs."

This year's ride will follow a 108-mile route through Kandiyohi, Polk and Stearns counties.

Dave Stuhr, 2013 ride captain, said the Shriners have some extra perks for riders, including Stingers baseball tickets and a free lunch after the ride served by the Stingers. Riders will also receive a poker chip commemorating the 25th ride.

Stuhr said 100-250 people have participated in the run, and he's expecting that kind of turnout again this year.

"Some bring multiple toys, so that's a lot of toys to take down there," Stuhr said. "It can be a challenging time for the kids, depending on what they're there for. So it gives them something to play with or to take their minds off of whatever they may be going through. We strongly support the kids."

The Willmar Shriners will take the toys to the Shriners Hospital in the Twin Cities June 15, and all those interested can join them then too. They will leave at 8 a.m. from the Willmar Holiday Inn parking lot.

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