Toy Run Oct. 7, dance first week in December

The annual Wayne Kash Memorial Toy Run is this Saturday, Oct. 7. The group will meet at the Walmart parking lot at 11 a.m. and leave at noon for the Rocky Ford Elks. This year it was accepted as a 2017-18 American Legion Department of Colorado Children and Youth Project. Both the Toy Run and the Toy Dance were selected.

Richard Devlin of Fort Lyon fixes the bikes for the Toy Run at the Market on Sixth Street in Las Animas. The Tom Skinner family has collected and donated over 60 bicycles this year. People who are helping with this year’s Toy Run and Toy Dance are Jody Bracy, Christopher Quick, Sarah Kelly-Garrett, Dustin Faus and Natalie Mills-Faus, Kevin and Vicki Bosley, Richard Devlin (bicycle repair), Terry Menges, Jim Crawford, Larie Bitter and Marilyn Bracy. Also helping this year are a few members of the Cheraw 4-H club as part of their community service (Samantha, Issac and Casey Zumwalt and Dustie Faus). In addition, Keith and Debbie Hannan and Rikk Lindt are helping with the Toy Dance.

The Wayne Kash Memorial Bikers Toy Run and Toy Dance was started in approximately 1985 by Naval Master Chief Wayne Kash. Kash served as a US Navy Seal for 24 years. He never had any disciplinary actions during his time in service. Kash was a rather large and almost scary looking man. To put it in perspective, this man could make a Harley Road King look like a moped.

Kash had a passion for helping children. Kash did several fundraisers for local children who were terminally ill or severely disabled or underprivileged children in the lower Arkansas Valley. Kash and his best friend, Jeff Stevenson, carried this on side by side even as Kash's health deteriorated from his Agent Orange exposure until Kash passed away. Jeff continued the legacy of Kash and continued with the Toy Run and Toy Dance for many years until his health deteriorated to the point he could no longer continue. Jeff then passed the mantel of carrying on this legacy of giving to children to Jody Bracy in January 2015.

Under Jody Bracy's leadership the Wayne Kash Memorial Bikers Toy Run and Toy Dance has gone from helping 250-300 children to helping over 800 children in 2016. Several members of American Legion Post 6, American Legion Post 9 and American Legion Post 168 help with this project every year. The kudos however go to the local area bikers and members of the community. The entire community comes together and supports this effort.

The children helped come from referrals. The committee gets a child's age and gender from agencies such as the Bent County Sheriff's Office, Otero County Sheriff's Office, Otero County Social Services, Manzanola School District, Crowley County Social Services, Crowley County School District and Black Hills Energy. Every family that is assisted must be vetted as to the need from one of these agencies. The agencies cross check the information. Children are helped up to age 12, but if there is an older child in the household and a younger child, members make sure they get something as well. The committee also does not help families for more than two years unless there is a desperate need within the family, and then it is reviewed by the members of the referring agency and the Toy Dance committee. They have been working all year on the project, and in a concentrated effort since late summer.