Auto enthusiasts are, hands down, some of the most passionate people that you’ll meet. And they have to be, right? How else can a person expect to take a hunk of rusted metal and turn it into a shining hot rod, if they’re not willing to put in hours of wrenching and a few busted knuckles? So, it should come as no surprise that when the car community comes together in the interest of collecting toys for the less fortunate, some amazing things can happen. This is where car culture and charity collide—and this is how auto enthusiasts do Toys for Tots.
Toys for Tots is a renowned charitable organization run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve. Founded in 1947, the program has collected and distributed over 548 million toys to millions of children across America. And so much of that good will and hard work is possible because of local campaigns, like those listed below. If you’re interested in hosting a Toys for Tots drive—car-related or not, or simply want to make a donation, click here to learn more. In the meantime, read on for some inspiration.
This charitable foundation, located in California, just celebrated its fifteenth year of holiday toy-collecting. What started as a small car show and toy drive outside founder Dustin Troyan’s coffee shop in 2004, has now grown into one of the world’s largest toy drives that’s enriched by a HUGE car show featuring all makes and models, from niche to mainstream.
This year’s Motor4Toys event, which just passed on December 2, took up the entire campus of Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley. Nearly 2,500 vehicles participated and thousands more spectators showed up to take part in this enormous Toys for Tots event. Over 40,000 toys were collected in a matter of hours! All donations from the show are taken to the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, and since the show kicks off a month-long toy drive, all additional items will be distributed to needy kids throughout the entire state of California.
Motor4Toys is more than a simple local Toys for Tots campaign or even a large charity—it’s a movement. And with the help of thousands of auto enthusiasts in California and beyond, it shows us that despite all the current negative press, there are still really good people in the world. It serves as a testament to what the car community can achieve when it comes together for a good cause.
The Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade
Remember, not all gearheads ride four wheels. The “World’s Greatest Motorcycle Parade,” an annual tradition in Chicago, occurs the first Sunday of every December. This was the event’s 41st year of raising donations for Toys for Tots and riding holiday-decorated hogs down Western Avenue. The 20-mile parade is a must-see event in the Windy City, drawing 40,000-50,000 participants each year. Even the governor gets in on the action, regularly donating to the cause and riding in the event the past seven years.
The first toys parade in 1978 started with six friends, one motorcycle, and a van full of toys, which just goes to show that you only need a little to make a lot.
Jeeps on the Run
Jeeps on the Run, a nonprofit organization also located in Illinois, hosts a variety of Jeep-related events throughout the year to help different charities. This year was its sixth annual Toys for Tots run, drawing about 800 Jeeps decked out in holiday gear and collecting over 5,000 donations in one day. What began as a simple interest in bringing Jeep owners together has turned into a hundreds-vehicle-long parade, gathering toys for needy children. The event has grown so much, that this year the organization was able to raffle off a Jeep JKU.
If you’re in the Chicago area and want to get involved in a Jeeps on the Run event, click here to stay up-to-date and remember, all Jeeps are welcome. “Big or small, off-road or to the mall, please bring them all!” says the organization.
Lighted Jeep Parade
If you’re thinking that organizing a Jeep-themed Toys for Tots sounds fun but you want to do something a little different, consider a nighttime lighted Jeep Parade like this one in Colonial Beach, Virginia or this one in Mansfield, Texas.
Not only are these events a great opportunity to collect toys for the less fortunate, they’re a fun way to kick off the holiday season. With a car show, parade, music, and awards for Best in Show, you can be sure participating Jeepers go all out to make sure no child is left behind this Christmas.
South Florida Exotic Car ‘Toy Rally’
The South Florida Exotic Car ‘Toy Rally’ is a 100% charity-based event that just celebrated its 13th anniversary. Bringing together auto enthusiasts for one of the largest gatherings and processions of the world’s most exotic cars, the Toy Rally collects thousands of toy and monetary donations for Toys for Tots every year. With a parade of wild rides spanning miles long, owners drive from the BB&T Center (home of the NHL Florida Panthers) to the Goodyear Airship Base in Pompano Beach.
Last year’s event broke all previous records and set a pretty high benchmark—bringing in over 3,000 toys and $75,000 in cash. This year drew 375 participants, almost $71,000 in donations, and a literal mountain of toys.
Annual Toys for Tots Labor Day Car Show
Who says you have to wait until December to get the ball rolling on a Toys for Tots drive? Hosted by the Portland Motor Club, this cruise-in style car show kicks off the gift-giving season early, on Labor Day. This year marked the event’s 12th anniversary, drawing hundreds of cars from antiques to classics, resto-mods to street rods. With music, food, prizes, specialty awards, and of course toys, it’s a great way to unite all car clubs and enthusiasts for a good cause.
In addition to providing Christmas magic to millions of kids, Toys for Tots is a truly honest charity. Over 97% of monetary donations go directly toward the mission in the form of toys, books, and gifts. And the remaining 3% covers fundraising expenses—not salaries.
So, if you’ve been feeling like something’s missing this holiday season, who knows? Maybe it’s time to organize a Toys for Tots car show or trail run in your hometown in honor of those less fortunate.