Food and Toy Run shows yule spirit everywhere |

Food and Toy Run shows yule spirit everywhere

Thom Staser doesn’t much look like Santa. No big belly. No red suit. No white beard. Not even a “Ho, Ho, Ho.”

But the Nevada City native can match Old Saint Nick pound for pound when it comes to Christmas spirit.

Staser popped in on me Monday morning, just after the lights returned here at The Union plant. Our power had been knocked out by the biggest storm I’ve seen since Typhoon Pamela, whose eye crossed my path on the Micronesia islands many years ago. It’s true what they say about 120-mile-per-hour winds.

Storm or no storm, Staser was still pumped up by the success of Saturday’s 11th Annual Food & Toy Run, and he wanted a little ink.

“That’s what we’re here for,” I told him. “I might not have power, but I’ve got barrels and barrels of ink out there in the warehouse.”

Staser proceeded to show me photographs from Saturday’s run; photos of cops and politicians and kids and bikers and lots of others who braved the weather to provide gifts and food for families who could use a little extra help this holiday season.

Staser was one of four friends who decided 11 years ago that Nevada County could use a toy run of its own.

“We were sitting under the South Auburn Street overpass waiting for a friend and I asked someone if they were going to the Toy Run in Sacramento,” Staser explained. “Then we started talking about starting our own.”

That first event drew 90 bikers, and it has grown in leaps and bounds since.

The bikers gather at the Eric Rood Center and are escorted (front and rear) by various law enforcement agencies through Nevada City and eventually to the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

Staser has been riding motorcycles of various sizes and shapes since he was 12, and remembers playing cat and mouse with the local cops as he zipped through those same streets.

“The cops all knew us,” he recalled, and I imagined he wasn’t exaggerating in the least.

The difference between this toy run and many others are the faces of the children. The donors actually get to see the smiles their efforts bring.

“I’ve seen grown men cry when they see those little kids come up and get a toy,” said Staser, who doesn’t look like the kind of guy who cries easily. “Afterwards, the kids will send us hand prints on thank-you notes.”

Each family receives a Christmas turkey, 10 pounds of potatoes and some canned goods. Each child receives at least three toys.

Recipients are coordinated through Project Head Start, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Grass valley Ladies Relief Society.

“We’re a nonprofit organization that just happens to ride motorcycles,” said Staser, who is CEO of the organization. His board includes Chris Heller from Head Start and Linda Logan, the financial officer.

Turns out I needed a visit from Staser Monday morning. The rain was still coming down in buckets, my garage was flooding, my power could go out again at any minute. He reminded me that those are just a few of life’s little curves, and that what matters most is how we respond to another’s need. In this case, all Staser asked from me was a little ink.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The Union. His column appears every Tuesday.

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