By FRED RAMOS
Special to The Monitor
The halls were decked with boughs of holly as dozens of children felt the comfort and joy of Christmas, Saturday. It was all part of the eighth annual Christmas toy giveaway at the Buckner Rio Grande Children’s Home in Mission.
The South Texas Law Dogs Motorcycle Club donated the toys as part of the club’s annual fundraising campaign.
About 100 children call Buckner home and have been placed there because court officials found abuse and neglect at the hands of their birth parents. Now many of them wait at Buckner to be adopted or placed in foster care.
But Saturday, only one thought occupied their minds — Santa!
The girls and boys munched on holiday treats and took part in festive games, unaware of the gifts they would soon receive.
“I hope I see Santa,” exclaimed one excited child at the celebration.
According to Buckner Children’s Home spokesperson Christopher Ruth, the toy giveaway often lifts the spirit of children during a fragile time of their lives.
“Being a child who has no consistency, it’s good they have the consistency of receiving gifts, and they get toys, and they see the amazing motorcycles … it’s a wonderful thing,” Ruth said. “This is something the children look forward to every year.”
About 80 Law Dogs Motorcycle Club members arrived promptly at noon at the Buckner Children’s Home campus. Each biker wore a red button down dress shirt, along with black vest bearing their “colors.” They carried gifts for the children who lived at the home.
The bikers rode their motorcycles in a thundering herd from the KGBT-TV studios in Harlingen to Mission. In addition to Channel 4, toys were collected at various locations throughout the Valley.
Bikers also paid to take part in the toy drive. Each rider donated $25 to the cause, passengers donated $15. Organizers say they expect to raise about $3,000 this holiday season.
Allen Flores is the president of the South Texas chapter of the Law Dogs. Flores says members of the club look forward to the event each year.
“This is what I live for. When you see the joy and the warmth of the children, it brings tears to your eyes,” said Flores. “I get emotional just talking about it. We try to reach out to them as much as we can.”
“The bikers are a great blessing to us,” said Monica Salinas, executive director of Buckner Children’s Home. “These are children that need a little bit of stability. They need love and attention. So this’ll is a great opportunity for us to bring a little bit of hope and joy to their lives, even if it’s just for a little while.”
And the man the kids all came to see was seated with fellow motorcycle riders at the children’s home dining hall. Mike Green, or Santa Claus as he’s known to the kids, has dressed up as the fellow from the North Pole for about eight years at the children’s home Christmas celebration. He also has the honor of handing out presents to the children, one-by-one and calls each child by name.
“We always get a good reception when we arrive here,” Green said. “One year, we couldn’t get off the motorcycles, the kids were climbing all over ourb; bikes. It feels good to know that we bring a little Christmas cheer to the kids.”
Maria Fernanda is an 8-year-old child living at the foster home.
Her foster mother, Maria Cruz, was there to help celebrate the Christmas holiday with Maria Fernanda. “This is exciting and it’s a blessing. We look forward to seen the motorcycles and the kids getting their gifts,” Cruz said. “But it’s also important to get together as a community. It helps foster children learn to socialize with other people.”
Maria Fernanda says Christmas is her favorite time of year. However, this year, Christmas has taken on a special meaning for her, as a foster child.
“Because it’s a time when everyone is together and we gather around and everyone is smiling and having a lot of fun,” Maria said. She drops her eyes and speaks words of wisdom beyond her years. “But it’s not about presents, it about family. I will remember this day for a long time because everyone is happy.”