Doug and Jimmie Clark, members of the Gryphon Motorcycle Club of Ellis County, were on hand Friday to present a certificate of appreciation to the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office for its participation in the Ellis County Toy Run.

The toy run is an annual event sponsored by the motorcycle club.

The sheriff’s department, in coordination with the Midlothian Police Department’s motorcycle unit, provided escorts and managed intersection traffic during the 2008 run.

The procession of two-wheel motorcycles and trikes included more than 3,000 units. Each year, the toy run begins in Midlothian, traveling along U.S. Highway 287 toward its end destination, Sokoll Activity Center, which is located about three miles east of Ennis on State Highway 34.

“During the past 15 years, I’ve only missed about three toy runs,” Sheriff Johnny Brown said. “I’ve participated in a lot of their events, including their chili cook-off. The Gryphons do a lot in Ellis County to assist the needy and senior citizens as well as the citizens of Ellis County.”

Brown said former Sheriff Ray Stewart, who retired at the end of 2008, began providing escort service for the run back in the early 1990s, with the support continuing through to the present.

The most recent run was documented by helicopter with photographs and video taken of the procession, which almost spanned the entire length of the 30-plus mile route.

“We had people from all over to participate,” Doug Clark said. “One woman came all the way from Houston to ride.”

He recalled one young man in his early 20s who came to the Sokol hall with his children just to admire the bikes.

“He told us that he remembers the very first Christmas that he received gifts under the tree and that they were made possible by the toy run,” Clark said.

He also noted one toy run participant who not only rode every year, but was always the first one to show up and always rode in the front.

“His last name was Haas and he was from Midlothian,” Clark said. “One year, we had a banner made with his name on it to honor him for his participation. It was hanging on the wall inside the Sokol hall and he asked us if he could take it to his family reunion that year.”

Haas passed away several years ago, but his son visited one of the runs in recent years, telling the group just how much the gesture meant to his dad.

“That really meant a lot to those of us in the club,” Clark said.

In addition to collecting thousands of toys, which are distributed to Head Start, various charitable groups, other toy runs and the fire department each year, the Gryphons also collect canned goods to distribute to the different communities sponsoring the toy run. A cash donation also is made to a senior citizens center.

“Last year, we raised over $20,000, which went to the senior citizens (center) of Ennis,” Clark said.

Included in the Gryphons’ 2009 calendar of events are their spring party, April 18; poker run, April 19; Gryphons Bike Raffle, June 20; chili cookoff, Oct.10; and the annual Ellis County Toy Run, Dec. 13.

For more information, call 972-723-3157.

E-mail Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.comꆱ