Who says you can't do a good deed and have a good time?

Acts of kindness and charity don't always have to be pious and reserved. At the Player's Pub in Catalina on Dec. 5, the eighth annual Kids Toy Drive became a big party, with Christmas celebrated by a couple hundred people interested in a good cause.

The event, sponsored by Player's Pub, the Catalina Crusaders and the Golder Ranch Fire District, is intended to raise money to help the children of needy families in Catalina, Oro Valley, Oracle, San Manuel and Mammoth.

Things got going early on Dec. 5.

In the morning, 20 motorcyclists staged a rally / poker run, traveling more than 100 miles from Catalina to Florence, over to Coolidge and then back to Catalina. About noon, most of the crowd started showing up. Barbequed chicken dinners were being served, drinks were flowing, and there were rows of items for bidding in a silent auction on the outside patio at Player's Pub.

Funds raised at the annual event are presented to the Golder Ranch Fire Department, which compiles a Christmas "wish list" from families that seek help. Last year, in the pouring rain, more than $21,000 was raised, which helped more than 800 kids, according to Pub owner Ruth Dormanen.

"It was our best year ever and this year, even in this economy, it looks like another great turnout," she said.

The Kids Toy Drive began eight years ago, when Dormanen started raising money for kids by literally taking stuff off the barroom walls and selling it. "We sold autographed sports photos, neon bar signs and passed a hat around asking for contributions," he said.

Dormanen quickly spreads the credit around by mentioning all the help from the fire department, friends, volunteers and the Catalina Crusaders, a local group that helps collect monies and toys for the children.

 Parked just outside the front door is a U-Haul packed with bags full of donated items like toys, winter jackets and pajamas. Outside next to the truck is a 2002 custom Harley motorcycle, valued at over $23,000 and donated by Bob Kramer. To win the bike, raffle tickets sold for $25 each, or five for $100.

Music was by the Roadhouse Band, playing for free for the eighth year in a row. Cindy Hendrickson made more than 20 gift baskets to be auctioned off, and also sold dollar raffle tickets. The winning ticket wins a $100 bill she has pinned to her sweater. 

Stan Simard holds up a basketball donated by this year's University of Arizona's basketball team and signed by the players and coaches. Businesses in the Catalina area like Claire's, Bobs Barbershop and Catalina Automotive contributed food, cash and auction items.

The event ran from noon to 8 p.m. Santa and Mrs. Claus (Tod Teal and Gail Markwell) sashayed in about 2 and headed for the dance floor.

"We were already dressed up anyway," said Markwell. "I like what this event does for the community, the real spirit of Christmas comes out. Everybody has a good time, but it is also very rewarding."

Hendrickson, selling raffle tickets, nods her head in agreement. "Every child deserves a Christmas," she said.


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