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Making a run for it: Nevada County Toy Run rides again

Get your motors running, because the annual Nevada County Toy Run will return this year, vrooming down the streets of Nevada City and Grass Valley, all in an effort to provide local children with a plentiful Christmas.

Eric Oliver, president of Nevada County Toy Run, is excited to return to tradition after a couple of years of uncertainty. The pandemic had made an impact on the run and last year personnel changes presented challenges for Oliver and staff, who went on to produce an abbreviated version of the toy drive.

“We just took it over last year,” Oliver said, “and as much help as I did get from Thom (Staser, former organizer and founder), we basically started fresh. We only had six weeks to start fresh and raise money. It was a lot of challenges.

“It was all brand new for me; figuring out who to talk to, what permits we needed, insurance. It went off pretty well. We had to change the route because of short notice and manpower.”

This year the run will return to its original route, including Mill Street in Grass Valley which has been closed off to allow for pedestrian traffic and outdoor dining. The organization has the time this year to organize and collaborate with law enforcement to open necessary roadways and ensure the safety of both riders and spectators alike.

“It really is awesome,” said Oliver. “No fee (to join). We just all meet at the Rood Center the day of and it kicks off at 12 noon. We sell T-shirts and all we ask is that people bring a new, unwrapped toy to give.”


In years past, the event has gathered up to 1,500 motorcycles; last year’s topped off at around 1,300. All riders carry at least one toy to be donated to families in need.

The procession runs from the Eric Rood Administrative Center — 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City — all the way through downtown Grass Valley, ending at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

“The bikers walk through the buildings and get to see the families and the workers,” Oliver described. “We sort (toys) by age, but kids can do all their own ‘shopping.’”

Those who are not avid bikers can still contribute, Oliver said, by way of donation. The nonprofit organization takes any monetary donations and selects items to be distributed. Teenagers, he said, are often looked over, so the donation of age-appropriate bikes and sports equipment is especially appreciated.

Oliver noted that many local businesses sponsor the event and make it possible for the riders to hand out turkeys, hams, and other items for a holiday meal. Sponsors for this year’s event are needed, Oliver said.

The Nevada County Toy Run serves local youth, partnering mainly with the Head Start program, but working with a number of community agencies and those who specifically reach out for help.

“It really is amazing,” said Oliver. “I’ve participated in the event for the last 10-plus years as a donor and that felt good. But seeing it from a different perspective, it’s an unreal feeling to see what it means to these families. The feeling is unbeatable.”

This year’s toy run will take place Dec. 10, rain or shine. Those interested in making a donation or joining the group of motorcyclists are encouraged to reach out to Nevada County Toy Run on its Facebook page of the same name, or by email at nevadacountytoyrun@gmail.com.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com

A motorcycle pulling a wagon full of toys heads down Broad Street in Nevada City during the 2021 Nevada County Food and Toy Run.


Five-year-old Daleyza Lopez smiles while she selects gifts for herself at a previous toy run with the help of her family, including grandmother Claudia Quintero, during the Food and Toy Run at the Nevada County Fairgrounds.

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