Every year for the past 12 years, car enthusiasts have gathered for the NW Toy Run. This annual charity event may have started small, but it has grown each year – topping more than 2,500 people.
A conversation with his 3-year-old son led Alan Kettle to start a Poker Run style charity drive for Toys for Tots. Kettle and the first year’s Run attendants would start in Kent and drive to Izzy’s Pizza in Olympia.
“On the day of that event, Alan was surprised that those 50 cars grew into 150 plus cars,” said Lisa Albrecht, NW Toy Run organizer and Lexus of Bellevue Toy Run shopper. “Obviously everyone was really excited and they decided to do it the next year.”
Circa 2007, the event had grown so large it required either a police escort or a new game plan. Pacific Raceways stepped up as a host and the NW Toy Run has been there ever since, sponsored by the likes of ProFormance Racing School, CrimeStoppers NW and Lexus of Bellevue.
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“I think it’s a wonderful cause that we’re supporting at the race track, that’s about as good as it gets,” said Don Kitch, Jr., chief instructor of ProFormance Racing School at Pacific Raceways in Kent (who spent the day in the lead car for all the laps). “We’re on the race track driving the car making money for the kids. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
While it isn’t a Toy Run in the Poker Run sense anymore, the local PNW Coupes and Sedans and Stampede Washington groups held a cruise (nay, Run) out to the NW Toy Run, from Everett to the racetrack in Kent.
“It’s nice to be able to attend an event such as this and help bring that little shine into a child or youths eye during the holiday season,” said Thomas Owens, founder of the PNWCS group. “Making a child have a special, enjoyable holiday just by donating some toys is the least that we can do, plus its where we as car enthusiasts can come together as one and mingle among each other.”
During the NW Toy Run, Pacific Raceways is chocked full of a variety of vehicles to see, from exotics to pickups and everything in between. While it’s primary goal is to raise money and toys for kids, the NW Toy Run is a big car show and a good excuse to come together to have fun with friends.
“It’s a really good turnout, last year it wasn’t so big,” said Jeff Underwood, owner of a 2005 Chrysler 300C and member of Kitsap Modern Mopar. “There’s a lot of nice cars and just hanging out with friends. Fun!”
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While it’s all fun and games, gift giving and freebie giveaways – and 4 laps around Pacific Raceways for those who paid – the big winner of the NW Toy Run are the kids who get a present for the holidays.
“The bottom-line to make sure that every kid, that otherwise wouldn’t get a Christmas morning, gets a Christmas morning through the generosity of people bringing toys or money,” said Ed Troyer, Pierce County detective and representative for Toys for Tots and CrimeStoppers.
Last year, the NW Toy Run collected around $60,000 in donations. This year, they filled their semi-truck trailer full of toys and still needed a second vehicle to carry the day’s haul.
“To be honest with you, this is the most generous crowd of every event we do. We get more toys and more money to buy toys here than any other event we do,” Troyer said. “I love the people out here.”
For some, the NW Toy Run was a good excuse to try out a new car on the track. As part of the event, ProFormance Racing School offers lead-follow track time, 4-laps for $75 with the proceeds also going to Toys for Tots.
“I’m on all-seasons, but the first time on track is amazing. Can’t wait to go on the track next year when it’s dry and I’m on summer tires,” said Justin Francisco, owner of the first red Honda Civic Type-R in Washington and member of Stick To The Basics (STTB) club out of Kitsap County.
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It was Francisco’s first time going to the event. He’d moved to the PNW from Hawaii recently and had heard about the NW Toy Run on Facebook.
“I remember growing up we always did Toys For Tots in school, it’s always good to give to others in need,” Francisco said. “I appreciate that they do this event for everybody.”
The all-volunteer event went off without a hitch. While there were some vocal complaints online about pot smell or people doing burnouts (which are common at many car, or other, events in Washington) there was plenty of money made for the kids.
“Thank you to everyone who supported it and made it what it is,” Kitch, Jr. said in parting.
This is just a handful of the many pictures from the event! Stay tuned all next week, as galleries featuring more than 115 photographs of locals and their cars!
(Note: This post has been edited for accuracy.)