Who can forget those cheesy but classic biker gang films from the 1950s and 1960s with titles such as “Wild Angels,” “The Born Losers” and “Angels from Hell.” by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Rich Verchow, leading the way as this years honorary Santa Claus, offers a friendly wave as motorcyclists roll out to escort a truckload of toys going to the Elks Lodge.

But times have sure changed. These days, if you see a group of motorcyclists, odds are they’re on their way to contribute to a worthy cause. Maybe they’re even playing Santa Claus.

That was the case last Saturday as about 95 motorcyclists, many of whom are members of ABATE of Oregon — an organization that promotes motorcycle rights and education — rumbled down Evergreen Road on a nine-mile route from the Hillsboro Fire Station on Northwest 229th to the Hillsboro Elks Lodge on Northwest Quatama Road.

The two-wheelers were rolling to support the Stan Johnston Memorial Toy Run, an annual event that provides toys to those who might otherwise go without during the Christmas season. In addition to donating dozens of new toys, the motorcyclists raised about $2,400 to support the Hillsboro Fire Department’s yearly Toy & Joy HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTOS: CHASE ALLGOOD - Bikers on a mission to spread good cheer over the holidays line up before their convoy gets under way.

“The Elks distribute the toys as part of their winter food program to help people around the community, and the money goes to the fire department to help them buy toys,” said Gordon Sahnow, ABATE event coordinator.

Sahnow said Stan Johnston, a World War II veteran and longtime ABATE member, started the toy drive tradition in 1984.

“That first year, there were three motorcycles involved, and now it’s close to 100,” Sahnow said.

Johnston, who flew B-17s over Germany and France during the war, passed away in 2004, but the tradition he started continues to grow. For the past 22 years on the third Saturday in November, firefighters and motorcyclists have been active in the toy drive, buoyed by a great deal of community support. In addition to help from the fire department, Sahnow noted that Beaverton Honda-Yamaha donated two $250 gift certificates and the Hillsboro Elks provided two $100 VISA gift cards for a raffle.

Sahnow said it was gratifying to participate in the program.

“It’s great,” he said. “I’ve helped with distribution of the toys before, and it’s a great feeling.”

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