WASHINGTON COUNTY — The sound of motorcycle engines rumbled through the streets as a caravan of members of the Bikers Against Child Abuse organization dressed as Santa Claus and his helpers drove down Dixie Drive en route to their very special destinations Thursday evening.
Earlier Thursday afternoon, the BACA members joined about 100 other volunteer Santas along with their helper elves as they gathered at the Dixie Center St. George to load their vehicles with presents and deliver them to children in need across Washington County. The Santas were taking part in the culmination of three days of shopping, wrapping and delivering gifts as part of KONY Coins for Kids.
The nonprofit organization operates on the generous donations and volunteer efforts of people throughout the community in order to provide Christmas to underprivileged children living in the area. This year, the organization set a goal of raising $150,000, a goal which was reached Wednesday morning, said radio host Carl Lamar, the organization’s president.
The money raised was spent shopping for 493 local families, said Brian Musso, KONY Coins for Kids chairman. These are children and families that might not otherwise have anything for Christmas.
The organization is a staple in Southern Utah and one that brings the community together in a big way. From Tuesday to Thursday hundreds of volunteers, young and old, participated in the volunteer activities, which included shopping for the toys, wrapping and organizing the gifts and delivering them.
While presents were being wrapped Wednesday, there were times when lines of volunteers stretched out the door and into the hall of the Dixie Center.
“What a wonderful feeling just having the community support,” said Rick Massey, Southern Utah Toys for Tots coordinator. “We’re very blessed here where the community comes together.”
Toys for Tots, KONY Coins for Kids and United Way Dixie partner with and support each other in their various work, Massey said.
From recipients to volunteers, KONY Coins for Kids has touched many lives since its inception in 1990.
Volunteer McKenna Hodge said she has personally seen how the organization has helped families and wanted to give back.
“I’ve wanted to give back since they helped me so much when I was younger,” Hodge said.
Hodge came dressed as Mrs. Claus and was delivering presents with Dillon McKinney, who said he was hooked on volunteering with KONY Coins for Kids.
But it could be argued that few people are more touched by the organization’s charitable work than Musso himself, who was celebrating his 19th Christmas as part of KONY Coins for Kids.
By Thursday evening, Musso was tired. His Fitbit had recorded thousands of steps and his feet were sore, he said, but it was all worth it.
“When you think about it, we’re providing Christmas for a lot of underprivileged families and I guess that’s why we keep doing it,” Musso said, getting choked up. “If we don’t, who would? And that’s why I keep coming back, and I keep trying to help.”
As the BACA Santa’s arrived at each home on their route, they were greeted with the sounds of excited children – some who could be heard exclaiming that they were sure it was the real Santa.
The children’s names were read aloud as the presents were carefully placed under the Christmas trees in each home, and Santa departed with shouts of “Ho, ho ho,” and “Merry Christmas.”
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