BELOIT—Kids were playing basketball, jumping in bouncy houses and rounding up free tennis shoes as their parents enjoyed ribs and music at the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Drive held Saturday afternoon at Merrill Elementary.
The festivities at the school followed a motorcycle parade held earlier in the day which kicked off at Jones Pavilion in Riverside Park and toured through the city before returning to Merrill. Led by Beloit Police Chief Andre Sayles who was flashing his lights, the parade had a positive reception from the community.
“A lot of people turned out and the ride was perfect,” said Rare Breed Motorcycle Club President Cornell Taylor, aka “Stealth. “We had a police escort which took us through the intersections. People could wave and we blew our horns. It was quite a fun experience.”
By 4 p.m. Merrill’s outdoor playground and gym was filling up with people, including many bikers from the parade and their Harley-Davidson’s.
Cojuana Barbary-Smith and Nikki Green of the Love and Loyalty MC (motorcycle club) had driven down to the festivities from Rockford. The women said they are part of an all-women’s biker club which tries to partner with others to do good works. Love and Loyalty offer an event for kids with special needs, give away book bags and school supplies and are in the process of building a haunted house.
“We do a lot of community service and we wanted to participate in this,” Green said.
“What’s more important than children?” Taylor asked.
Rare Breed riders, which often partner with Love and Loyalty MC to do community service projects, brought about a dozen riders down to show off their bikes.
“We like to donate our time and effort,” Taylor added.
Taylor said Saturday’s event showed a lot of participation with great food and festivities.
Dawn Burnell and Karen Coleman-Price of the Rising Queens were giving away free hot dogs and juice to kids and serving up some ribs, potato salad and baked beans for adults.
Coleman-Price said now that her kids are grown Rising Queens is giving her a chance to get more involved in the community again. With music playing, some people were dancing as others enjoyed their dinner via lawn chairs while catching up with neighbors at the event.
Inside the gym, some parents were rounding up free tennis shoes for their kids. Community Action Inc. Executive Director Marc Perry had brought five boxes of new tennis shoes for donation to families and to clothing closets in the school district.
Mom Donya Vance was finding shoes for her kids Jayden Davidson, 12, Jamarco Barnes, 10, and Jurnee Barnes, 8. Vance said she heard about the event through Merrill Elementary School as her daughter attends the school.
“All three kids are picking out shoes. I think it’s nice. It’s very helpful,” Vance said. “The kids are in the bouncy castle, getting food and having fun.”
Rising Queen Founder Tracy Dumas said there were 254 toys were collected at the event in addition to the tennis shoes provided by Perry.
“It was a good turnout,” she said.
During the festivities Dumas said many families were signing up for toys. She noted families have until Nov. 19 to sign up for toys at https://Beloit-wi.toysfortots.org.
The Rising Queens, official coordinators for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Drive for all kids in Rock County, are partnering with Merrill Elementary School for the toy pickup day set for Dec. 11. The toy pickup event will take place at the school from 8 a.m.—noon.