Thousands to join motorcycle event that collects gifts for needy kids

A local motorcycle advocacy group and the Salvation Army are teaming up again Sunday to collect toys for the area's needy children this Christmas.

ABATE of South Carolina plans a 1 p.m. ride for up to 3,000 bikers through North Charleston, West Ashley and downtown Charleston as part of the 30th annual Lowcountry ABATE Toy Run.

"We're proud of the fact that this is our 30th year working with the Salvation Army," said Chris Sosnowski, one of the event's organizers. "It started with a few hundred people. Now we have brought 3,000-plus to participate in this event."

Capt. Chris Thornhill, commanding officer for the Salvation Army, said the ride brings in between 1,000 and 2,000 toys a year to help needy children.

"The influx of toys that ABATE provides us is overwhelming," Thornhill said. "When you go from zero toys at 12 o'clock on Sunday to well over 1,000 to 2,000 toys by 4 o'clock, it is a shot in the arm for the Salvation Army."

ABATE, which stands for A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments, advocates for the rights of motorcyclists and fights against any proposed legislation that might restrict those rights.

Sunday's ride, which will be led by police escort, will begin at the former Charleston Naval Base in North Charleston. From there, officials said riders will head out on Cosgrove Avenue, crossing the Ashley River.

Riders will then cruise through West Ashley and over the James Island Connector and into downtown, where riders will head up Broad Street to Meeting Street. From there, the riders will head north and return to the Navy base.

Charleston City Councilman Henry Fishburne, who represents residents living south of Broad, said the city has had complaints in the past regarding motorcycles without mufflers. "As long as they behave themselves, which I assume they will, I think it hopefully will not disturb the downtown area too much," he said.

Sosnowski said the cost to ride is either $10 or a new unwrapped toy. He also wanted to alert motorists who will be traveling in those areas that there may be some delay, but to remember it is for a good cause.

"It is a very spectator-friendly route," he said. "But we also want people who are traveling anywhere near those intersections to be aware that they will be manned by police and road guards. There will be some delay."

Reach James Scott at 745-5855 or at jscott@postandcourier.com.