Before the 2021 edition of the Salvation Army toy run even started its trek up Main Street in late September, it was easy to see that the Moose Jaw Cycle Association in Saskatchewan had once again come through in a big way.

Well over 500 riders lined Manitoba Street from the Fourth Avenue Bridge all the way down to Mosaic Place prior to making the trip to the Salvation Army church on Thatcher Drive. And when the cacophony of motorcycles finally quieted, you knew a lot of families in Moose Jaw would be having a happy Christmas.

 Lieutenants Lester and Almeta Ward with the haul from the 2021 Salvation Army toy run

Giving for a Cause

“This is incredible and very emotional,” said Lieutenant Lester Ward, community ministries director of The Salvation Army, as riders milled around the church parking lot. “This is the second event for my wife, Lieutenant Almeta Ward, and me. Last year was a drive-by because of COVID, but this year we have a parking lot, and the side streets are packed with bikes. The donations are unbelievable. Residents of Moose Jaw and the surrounding area have generous hearts. Even folks that didn’t have bikes were showing up an hour before with donations for children.”

Participants were asked to bring a new unwrapped toy to the drop-off point, resulting in an impressive pile of stuffed animals, games and just about anything else that a youngster would love to have under the tree at Christmas.

People also made monetary donations, and Lieutenant Lester couldn’t even get through a five-minute media interview without being approached by someone looking to add more to the whole cause.

“This is very exciting, and we’re so blessed to be able to provide a Christmas to children,” said Lieutenant Lester. “When I look at the crowd here today and the bikes, and understanding that they come from all over, it truly shows the heart and passion of the people. They never let you down and they always go above and beyond in the community. Whether it’s the Christmas kettle campaign or the toy ride, they hit limits that we didn’t even anticipate.”

 Riders had all sorts of special passengers during their trip to the Salvation Army church

“Anyone Can Help”

The toys gathered will be distributed to families in a unique format that was first tried last year—a “store” will be set up in the Salvation Army church hall, and parents will be able to shop for free to pick up presents for their young ones.

“It was so well received last year and so appreciated we felt we had to do it that way again,” Lieutenant Lester said.

The toy run is just part of a year=round campaign by The Salvation Army, which includes the annual Christmas kettle campaign, to gather all they can to help families have the best Christmas possible. “It’s a great cause. All the money goes back into the community, whether it’s for food during Christmas, toys or special items that are required,” Lieutenant Lester concluded.

Reprinted from Moose Jaw Express/, September 19, 2021

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