Riders gather toys for keiki

LIHUE — Chris “Wild Dog” Takenaka had a dilemma Sunday.

As a veteran, Takenaka was torn between participating in the Kauai Veterans Council Christmas party for veterans, or the Keiki Toy Run for motorcycle enthusiasts.

“Many of the motorcycle riders are veterans themselves,” Takenaka said. “There should be a way we can make both events successful. This Keiki Toy Run is for the kids, though. And it’s just once a year we do this.”

Takenaka, with his ride-worn bear securely strapped to the handlebar of his motorcycle, was one of several hundred motorcycle enthusiasts who gathered Sunday for the ride, during which they deposited new toys for Kauai’s children at the historic County Building.

“I want to see the children’s faces when they get these toys,” said Charlotte Camara. “They’re going to be so happy.”

Brittany Thomas coordinated the toy collection, which overflowed her Toyota SUV and accumulated in the JC Crouch pickup by Kauai Harley-Davidson.

“These toys and food for the Hawaii Foodbank, Kauai Branch, are all going to help Kauai’s keiki and their families,” Thomas said. “Russell Haluapo, the ride organizer, coordinates the distribution to a lot of the churches so they end up with people who need help.”

Thomas said Haluapo has been organizing the keiki run for at least 23 years to allow motorcycle enthusiasts an opportunity to help the community.

“Honey Girl (the stuffed bear) has been riding for 25 years,” Takenaka said. “She has no eyes, and pieces tend to fly off in the wind. She is a blind bear, and unlike my dog Cruiser who can’t ride anymore, she’s still here and will be thinking about the veterans while cruising the roads.”

Traditionally, Santa rides shotgun with Haluapo in leading the caravan out of the historic County Building parking lot. But not this year.

“Santa had to go to the Mainland,” Haluapo said. “But I have a Santa bear and we’ll let Santa do what he needs to do.”

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