Valley toy run takes on a new life

Hundreds of toys will again be delivered to local children in need this Christmas, following the reinvention of the Gippsland Motorcyclists Toy Run.

The event will no longer involve a structured parade of motorcyclists travelling from Traralgon to Moe, rather a community gathering at Old Gippstown where riders, vintage car-enthusiasts, service clubs and families alike can make their toy donations.

It comes after the toy run was cancelled by organisers last Friday due to the regulatory hurdles and logistics associated with ensuring the safe procession of the hundreds of motorcyclists that support the cause each year.

“We’ve got a great motorcycling fraternity in Gippsland. I still want them to come, I still want them to be part of this. Ride your bikes, bring a toy like you always have,” event coordinator Alf Vella said.

Mr Vella thanked the volunteers who over the past 16 years had stood at busy intersections as marshals to help make the event happen.

He, along with representatives from Latrobe City Council, Victoria Police, Old Gippstown and toy distributors St Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army, met on Thursday to discuss ways the event could go ahead, following an outpouring of support from the community.

“I thought ‘all these people want to help us’,” Mr Vella said.

“(Latrobe City Councillor) Kellie O’Callaghan pulled those people together, we formed a new committee and now we have a new direction. It’s a very important cause and to be able to keep on doing it is wonderful.”

Cr O’Callaghan said when she saw Mr Vella’s Facebook post about the event’s cancellation, she strongly believed with some “support, community-generated leadership and assistance”, the event could be sustained.

“I had absolutely no doubt that the community would want to get behind the toy run and see it continue,” Cr O’Callaghan said.

Old Gippstown manager Kevin Reardon said the event would include market stalls, live music and children’s entertainment.

“We’re really keen and very excited to be part of it,” Mr Reardon said.

Motorcycle parking will be provided within the heritage park’s grounds and priority, cordoned parking will be available for special vehicles outside the gate.

The event, now dubbed the ‘Latrobe Valley Christmas Toy Drive’, is still slated for Saturday, 3 December.