CJ was invited to the annual Fun in the Sun Toy Run that has been held here in South Florida for the past ten years or so. We had never been before, and my understanding of the Toy Run was that a bunch of bikers get together to raise money and donate toys to local charities. Let's just say that is simplifying it a lot.
Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital is one of the main foundations that benefits from the Toy Run so they invited CJ, along with some other patients, to ride on the Joe D Firetruck this year. Apparently, the other kids had to cancel at the last minute so they extended the invitation to our entire family. This is how I found out how simplified my definition was.
I will admit that we struggled at first with the decision to attend this event. First, because it was being held a Sunday morning. Second, because it is a biker event which tends to be a little ummmm, how should I say it? Well, let's just say the very cold weather was a blessing and helped us feel better about that decision!
Regardless, those are debates we can save for another day and I have changed my stance throughout the years as a Christian on the Sunday morning thing, but I am going to bite my tongue (restrain my fingers) from elaborating further here. Most of you know, I love a good spiritual and theological debate but that is not what this post is about. However, I will confess that some of the times I experience God most clearly and powerfully is when I step outside of my comfort zone and follow what I think is His leading in a strange direction, and this was no exception. How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath! Sorry, couldn't resist.
We arrived bright and early at the park where the event is held, which was already bustling with people, cars, bikers, and vendors setting up. We were told to be there early to load up and drive to another location to ride in the parade back to this park for the main event. There was a huge line of convertible classic cars there and we were told to pick one and get in. We did not know these people and we quickly realized our entire family was not going to fit into one car together so we ended up breaking up into three different cars. This created a little anxiety right away but we were thankful we could all do this as a family so we started looking for cars to ride in. CJ was alone with a family that was there, Allie and Brett stuck together and found another car, with room for two, and Chris and I took Corey and looked for an available car to get in.
Once we got in, we realized these are truly Classic Cars which means most of them have no seat belts in the back seats. We quickly switched our little Corey to the front seat and Chris and climbed in the back. All we could think of was our other three children in convertible cars with strangers and no seat belts on the highway. We reasoned that the long line of classic cars would be going slow enough so what harm could be done. Wrong! These cars flew from Markham Park to the Pompano Beach meeting area. A 30 to 40 minute drive on all highways! I won't tell you how fast we were going but lets just say tires, hubcaps, gasoline, and a few other things went flying during this early morning stroll. I can guarantee you that Chris and I did more praying that early Sunday morning than we would have if we went to church instead. So you see God was already at work!
To ease our racing hearts and minds, Chris and I made conversation with our driver. He was an elder gentleman who was a Christian from Wisconsin. He obviously loved the Lord and classic cars. He lives in South Florida during the winter months and decided to donate his time, money, and classic car to the event. When he asked about our involvement we shared CJ's story which lead him. He in turn shared with us that his daughter, who is now an adult with her own family, also fought for her life as a child. His story was amazing and he shared how the Lord healed her.
As he spoke, I could just picture Chris and I as an older couple doing something similar. CJ would be off and married with children of his own and we would be driving a classic car with a family in the back that has experienced a child battling a terrible disease. Of course, I snapped back to reality and realized that was only if CJ survived the Toy Run! I remember commenting to Chris something to the effect of how it would stink to for CJ beat cancer and die in the parade that celebrates it.
When we arrived, by God's grace, safely at the starting point of the parade, we found THOUSANDS of bikers already there. This place was an event in and of itself. It was quite a sight.
Eventually, we loaded onto one the firetrucks towards the front of the Parade and headed out followed by MANY large trucks filled with THOUSANDS of donated toys. We were not as worried about the long ride back on top of a firetruck because we knew the roads would be closed for this portion of the event and we would be going at parade speed!
What we did not realize is that this firetruck we were on, is then followed by over 35,000 motorcycles all carrying a toy. Let me say that again....That is over thirty-five THOUSAND motorcycles (mostly Harley Davidsons). It is an amazing sight and sound! We were told the parade was so long it would take over two hours before the last bike got back to the park even though the parade route is only 30 minutes. There were hundreds of people standing on overpasses and along the roads and highways to watch the parade pass by. It was a very neat experience.
However, what was even more amazing was that once we got to the event site and got off the fire truck and were able to really see all these bikers. We were then able to read their jackets which often signify their clubs or gangs. The Pagans.......The Outlaws.....Hell's Angels.....The Mongols...and Bikers for Jesus. You know, stuff like that. Let's just say, I don't usually see that on a typical Sunday morning so I was taking it all in. I did find it ironic that I could either be sitting in church with my fellow Christians, or I could be with The Pagan's and Hell's Angels donating toys to sick kids. Hmmmm!
Now, consider that with the exception of the Bikers for Jesus and some of the others, the above mentioned Bikers are some of the most notorious biker gangs in the world. I am not exaggerating here. Many of them are bitter rivals and yet here they all were side by side and they all had a toy strapped to the back of their big bad motorcycles. I will tell you , there is nothing like seeing The Outlaws or Hell's Angels with a pink Barbie strapped in behind him!
Yet, for that one day something is bigger than any disputes, rivalries, differences, or macho image they may have. That day they are just bikers helping children in need.
Let's just say I pondered it my heart long and hard.