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10th Annual Easter Bunny Run Toy Sets All-Time Record

By Ron Cox

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The Southwest Florida Chapter of HOG (Harley Owners Group) and its sponsoring dealer Harley Davidson of Ft. Myers (HDFM) set a new record for participation in its 10th Annual Easter Bunny Toy Run with 1,109 registered riders/passengers on 800 motorcycles. What started out with about 125 participants ten years ago has become the second largest motorcycle run in Southwest Florida, second only to the March of Dimes Bikers for Babies.

Bunny run founder(and still the Bunny) Jack Fenwick toured the Children’s Hospital at HealthPark ten years ago and noticed there were few toys for the patients to play with. Fenwick brought the idea of having a toy run on the Saturday before Easter Sunday back to the HOG Chapter and the membership enthusiastically embraced it.

Hospital staff explained that when a child is experiencing a difficult time with his/her illness or undergoes a painful medical procedure they are allowed to select one toy from the toy chest to play with and take home. The toys, boxed games and arts/crafts supplies the bikers bring will keep all of the toy chests on all the children’s wards stocked for a year.

The Easter Bunny Toy Run actually began on Friday night when HDFM hosts a “Bike Night” in its spacious parking lot. Riders can pre-register (and more than 600 did), sample the food prepared by the Chapter’s “chefs”, enjoy the music provided by an onsite DJ and check out the wares of the numerous vendors. The riders received their “goodie bags” filled with items like keychain flashlights, bottle openers, a $10 off coupon provided by HDFM and a commemorative pin which the Chapter claims is the best event pin in SWFL! Numerous raffle prizes and a 50/50 drawing wrapped up the evenings happenings. Biker friendly establishments like Victory Lane and Crossroads Grill & Lounge donated gift certificates for the raffles.

Early Saturday morning volunteers returned to setup for registration. Since the vendors had vacated the night before, more volunteers positioned themselves to guide the bikes into assigned parking lanes. This ensured orderly departure at the appointed time.

At 11am sharp, the Easter Bunny made his appearance and took his ceremonial lap around the parking lot announcing his arrival and the rides imminent departure. Motor units and patrol cars from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department skillfully led the procession on its 17 mile route to the hospital which has been renamed as the Golisano Children’s Hospital at HealthPark.

Awaiting the Easter Bunny’s arrival, hospital staff brought down to the entrance all of the young ambulatory patients. As the rumble of approaching motorcycles grew louder and louder, the level of excitement grew accordingly.
As the riders gathered in the hospital’s Atrium speeches were kept to a minimum. Jim Nathan, President of the Lee Memorial Health System (LMHS) welcomed and thanked the riders for their generosity and support for this ride and the children for ten years.

Little by little the riders saddled up and headed back to HDFM for the rest of the festivities. Jason’s Deli provided a tasty box lunch, Coca-Cola donated the soft drinks and water and McArthur’s Dairy ponied up the ice cream. All of the aforementioned, plus the goodie bag and the ride is still only $5! Raffle prizes and another 50/50 kept the riders around. Debbie Mehling was especially happy she stuck around as she rode off with the $348 50/50 prize. And Sandra Comp was overjoyed as she won the two tickets Jet Blue donated, good for anywhere it flies.
We should point out here that Chapter Member Eric Sprauer worked 50 volunteer hours to secure the tickets.

Chapter members enjoy a great deal of contentment knowing their efforts mean so much to these children stuck in the hospital at Easter. No rest for the weary however, as work on the 11th Annual Easter Bunny Toy Run, scheduled for April 19, 2014 will begin shortly. So save the date!

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