Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade: Thousands of riders spread holiday cheer

It’s coined the world's largest motorcycle parade for a reason.

On Sunday, thousands of motorcycles revved their engines all the way down Western Avenue for the 46th Annual Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade.

"Ever see a smile on a kid’s face that never gets anything for Christmas? And we show up, and they get that toy. You made their year. And their eyes light up, and they are so happy, and if it’s even temporary, it is all worth it," said Dozer and Rob, who act as Santa’s escorts at the parade.

Even with a combined 40 years of Toys for Tots rides under their belts, the parade never gets old.

"Oh yeah, coming down Western Avenue, you see those kids on the side of the road; it doesn't matter how cold or wet you are, you know what you’re doing it for. It warms your heart," said Rob.

Even during the wet, rainy ride on Sunday, president of the parade, Lester Fortier, says an estimated 5,000 riders still showed up.

In the past, when the parade landed on a hot sunny day, close to 75,000 motorcycles made the trip. Fortier says this year’s number is still impressive compared to 46 years ago.

"There were only like six people on the first one," he said.

Chicagoland Toys for Tots cared for 5,000 families and 30,000 kids last year. Fortier says many riders on the route come to pay it forward now.

"I know those people remember being helped by us when they were little, and now they are in a position to give back or know somebody that was helped by us," said Fortier.

John Albergo has a list of reasons for coming to the past 35 rides.

"Some of the camaraderie around here, as you can see, is wonderful, and I had a friend who was a volunteer. My dear friend Berry Collins was a volunteer, so I do it for him," said Albergo.

Albergo says he knows it’s time for the holidays when the sound of motorcycles mixed with the spirit of giving comes through Chicagoland.

Countless presents were collected at Sunday's event. You can donate online or at toy boxes around the city.