Motorcyclists Mark 30 Years of Toy Drive Parades
By: David Ibata
His name is Jim, and he goes by the nickname “Dagger,” but to children and their families in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia, his name should be “Nick” – as in Saint Nick.
For 30 years, Jim Dagostine has organized and led the annual Dagger’s Toy Run, with roaring motorcycles in place of reindeer-propelled sleighs delivering Christmas toys to girls and boys. His partner in the effort is The Salvation Army Charleston, West Virginia, Area Command.
Dagostine says his favorite part of the event is “just seeing everybody turn out, seeing what we get, and knowing we’re going to make some families and kids happy.”
The tradition began in 1986 when Dagostine and two riding buddies – Jimmy Carr and Frank Frazier – got to talking about doing something special for Christmas for their community. “We were just three old, dumb country boys who got together, and it’s gotten bigger and better every year,” Dagostine told a local newspaper reporter several years ago.
The first year’s ride got about 50 to 60 toys and $50 to $60 in cash donations. “At that time, I couldn’t believe that people would give us that kind of money,” Dagostine said.
The Toy Run registration fee is $10 and an unwrapped toy. This year’s goal is 8,000 toys and $12,000 in donations. The Salvation Army will distribute the proceeds to households previously identified as in need – the children getting the toys, and the cash used to buy clothes, coats and shoes for them and their families.
“Jim is an amazing man, absolutely amazing,” said Major Brooks Gilliam, the area commander. “His love for kids and The Salvation Army are just unmatched.”
This year’s ride started on a cloudy, 27-degree Saturday afternoon, Dec. 10. The riders set out from the Nitro Moose Lodge in Nitro, West Virginia, led by deputies of the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office. The sun didn’t show until the end of the roughly 15-mile parade, but to the participants on bikes and the less hardy souls in vehicles, it was a bright day.
“We didn’t have the number of riders we had last year” – organizers were hoping for 200 – “but we had a lot of people who came in cars and trucks,” Dagostine said. “Last year, we had 8,000 toys and didn’t have enough people to haul the toys. This year, they brought The Salvation Army truck and filled that up, plus three or four pickups.”
At the beginning of this week, Major Gilliam said, the Army tabulated $12,667 in cash donations. Toys were still being counted.
“I’ve helped them out before, passing the toys out,” Dagostine said, “and I tell you, that’s where all the fun is, seeing these people being happy. Really and truly, that’s my Christmas right there.”