29th annual Toys in the Sun Run takes over South Florida streets

SUNRISE, FLA. (WSVN) - The 29th annual Toys in the Sun Run motorcycle parade took over the streets of South Florida, Sunday morning.

Outside the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach, motorcyclists could be seen lining up as early as 6 a.m. in preparation for what is billed as the world’s largest motorcycle parade. The route, which extended across more than 20 miles, began at the casino, took the riders through Broward County and ended at Markham Park in Sunrise.

Participants told 7News they took the journey for the children. “My boy had open-heart surgery at Joe DiMaggio [Children’s Hospital] 19 years ago, and I’ll never forget,” said sponsor Ricky Whitson.

7News cameras captured event organizer Joey Quinter planting a kiss on a former patient wearing a Santa hat. “This is my buddy Chaddy. This is why we would do it right here,” said the rider.

Parts of the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 and westbound lanes of Interstate 595 were closed as more than 30,000 motorcyclists with Christmas gifts hitched on the back of their bikes took to the road in support of the patients being treated at one of the leading pediatric hospitals in South Florida.

“We’ve raised $20 million in toys over the years, and we raised $9 million in monies for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital,” said Quinter.

7’s own Vivian Gonzalez posed for pictures with bikers who said the ride is a holiday tradition.

It is also a cause that’s close to former Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider, one of this year’s grand marshals. “I travel all over the country doing rides like this,” he said. “This is like 10 times as big as anything I’ve done before.”

Around 60,000 people participated in the event overall. In the years it has been held, the Toys in the Sun Run has raised more than $16 million.

“It gets bigger and bigger every year, and this is why I love Broward County,” said Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, another of this year’s grand marshals. “It’s about people who want to do more for others than they want to do for themselves. They just want to help kids out, and so many children are gonna benefit from this day.”

The bike riders enjoy the difference they make in the children’s lives. “It’s fun,” said one rider. “I like the cause for the kids. You know, the presents, stuff like that, time of year, the holiday.”

“I come out every year,” said another biker. “I come over here, and it’s a good cause for the kids. We help in hospitals and give some presents for the kids.”

Children like 10-year-old Joe DiMaggio patient Matthew Bowman, who has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

But on Sunday, health concerns were not on Matthew’s mind when he got to take a ride he will never forget. “I love helicopters, and this is my first time riding one,” he said.

Bell Helicopter provided a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the children. “They’re all smiles, and it’s something that they’ll always remember and never forget,” said Bell mechanic Kenton Isaacson.

Matthew’s father expressed his gratitude toward everyone involved in putting together the event. “We just want to say thank you to everybody that supports cystic fibrosis [care] and Joe DiMaggio for [treating] kids like Matthew,” he said.

The holiday-themed event also had Santa Claus in tow. “I’m here every year,” said Santa. “It’s the most important thing for children in our community.”

For more information on the Toys in the Sun Run, click here.

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