FAIRMONT – Summer Swiger is trying to continue a tradition started by her father.
Drexel “Youngen” Swiger started a toy run in the year 1991, to collect Christmas presents for children who may not otherwise have a Christmas.
“My dad started doing it with bikers in the late 1980s,” said Swiger, co-owner of Heritage Ink Tattoo. “A few years ago, they asked me if I wanted to help do it again and I was all for it.”
While Youngen passed away in 2008, Swiger has continued his legacy by bringing back the toy aptly dubbed “Toy Run for Youngens” in honor of her father. In the past three years, Swiger and her tattoo salon worked with the bikers organization, but this year, “Toy Run for Youngens” branched out on its own. She said bikers will still ride to different businesses to collect donations of toys and money.
“Basically we have a bunch of businesses on board,” Swiger said. “You have all the local businesses which have donated for raffles and gift baskets.”
Swiger said the donations go to the Salvation Army to be given to the kids who were not eligible for its Angel Tree program for one reason or another.
According to Swiger, the businesses have chipped in to the run by offering rewards to the people who make the toy run, with different rewards coming from different businesses. Kyumei Ju Jitsu LLC has been a stopping point for the toy run in the past, and is once again aiding in the effort.
“I think we’ve done it at least the last year,” said Jason Davis, owner of Kyumei Ju Jitsu LLC. “Last time we gave toys and also a chance to win a free month of lessons.”
Davis said this toy drive is a good opportunity for his business to help the community, because it also falls in line with the values of martial arts that he conveys through his teaching.
“For us, martial arts isn’t just about teaching kids to punch and kick,” Davis said. “It’s about teaching them about how to become better members of society. And we do that by example.”
In addition to Kyumei Ju Jitsu, bikers will make their way to locales such as Backwoods at Belmont, DJ’s Diner, Muriales and more, which are each supplying raffles for the run, Swiger said.
“It’s a great way to get all the businesses involved and also spread Christmas cheer during the Feast of the Seven Fishes,” Swiger said.
To conclude the toy run, participants will park in front of the Marion County Courthouse and place the toys under the Christmas tree outside. In past years, the toy donations have been numerous enough to pack the space under the tree, Swiger said.
“We usually have enough toys to surround the whole Christmas tree at the Courthouse,” Swiger said. “I’d say we get a couple hundred dollars in monetary donations and at least 10 or 15 boxes of toys donated.”
When the toy run is over, volunteers will take the donations to the Salvation Army. Swiger said she always looks forward to the run because of how much fun it is, and because it makes the bikers basically fill the role of Santa Claus for a number of kids.
“It’s fun too, for sure,” Swiger said. “It’s like Santa to these kids is a bunch of bikers, that’s pretty awesome.”
The toy run begins at 1 p.m. at Heritage Ink Tattoo at 217 Fairmont Ave. For more information on the run, or to get involved, call the salon at (304) 816-8998.