Santa swaps his sleigh for a Harley


Reindeer are nothing compared to the thundering engine of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Santa decided on Sunday.

So jolly Old Saint Nick left the reindeer in the barn and headed out for his duties on the back of a Harley, with the wind in his beard and the roar in his ears.

Members of the Tacoma Chapter Harley Owners Group (HOG) donated nearly 100 toys and bicycles to nine families at the Phoenix House homeless shelter in Tacoma as part of a charity Christmas run sponsored by Destination Harley-Davidson. They delivered the gifts on Sunday.

“It’s very satisfying to be involved with that kind of thing and plus it involves the other thing I like to do, which is ride motorcycles,” said Mark Banzhaf, a Federal Way HOG member who participated in the event.

“They were great,” said Alan Brown, Phoenix House housing director. “It’s exciting when this big group of Harleys comes roaring into our parking lot, and yesterday they brought a big trailer of gifts and Santa came roaring in on his Harley and, of course, the kids were excited to see him.”

Each of the nearly 20 children at Phoenix House received a bicycle and toys from their wish list. Their toy wishes were written on ornaments hanging on a giving tree at Destination Harley-Davidson, where customers took the ornaments and returned with gifts.

Any gift wishes left unfulfilled were purchased by Destination Harley-Davidson owner, Ed Wallace Jr.

“Of course they would essentially have had nothing without this, so it’s very exciting to see these young children get something substantial for Christmas,” Banzhaf said. “That’s just kind of one of the reasons for being for our group... It’s just part of the whole affair to kind of spread the wealth around — to put on a good face for people in the community.”

The Christmas run is one of many charity events sponsored by the HOG group each year. They also host several other toy runs, a Bunny Run in April to deliver Easter baskets, and several food drives for local food banks. Members contribute to the Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma and the Fisher House on Ft. Lewis.

“That’s one of the big things is that we want to present the image that it’s not just a bunch of motorcycle gang people running around,” Banzhaf said. “They’re normal people. They’re caring people that want to make an impact in the community.”

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