Portsmouth Motorcycle Club President Bill “Gizmo” Cole explained the need for a helicopter to the children.
“We flew Santa in from the North Pole, and there wasn't enough snow to land a sled. So we had to call in the helicopter,” Cole said. “The reindeer are going to have a pretty big week over the next few days, and they need to store up their energy.”
He gave the kids in attendance an update on the North Pole.
“They're back there eating plenty of hay, alfalfa and stuff, and getting their energy built up for their big around-the-world trip on the 24th,” he said.
Jason Kozee, business development director for LIFE Ambulance, also was on the scene Saturday as Santa Claus was flown in on the LIFE AIR ONE helicopter.
“Evidently, Santa has to get the reindeer all fattened up for Monday night, and he didn't want to run the weight off of them,” he said. “So we thought we'd give them a little bit of a break and let them build their stamina.”
Apparently, LIFE AIR had to be retrofitted for the special cargo.
“We had some things specially fitted in LIFE AIR ONE to take care of Santa. We had a milk dispenser and a cookie box right next to his seat with his headset waiting on him,” he said.
Kozee said Rudolph was helpful in the process back at the North Pole.
“Actually, Rudolph was instrumental in picking Santa up. There had a blizzard at the North Pole, and the landing zone was a little off,” he said. “So Rudolph made some rotations around the LZ (landing zone) and lit it up for us so we could land. Then he let us back out.”
Kozee assured kids the LIFE AIR ONE crew would have Santa back safely, and with plenty of time after he made his stops around the community.
Along with the Santa Claus update, Cole gave a little bit of the background surrounding the event.
“This was a group effort between the motorcycle clubs in southern Ohio. We rang bells for two days, and raised money for the Portsmouth Fire Department and New Boston Police Department,” he said. “The money was distributed equally between the two organizations to supply toys to the unfortunate kids. One-hundred percent of the money went back to the kids of southern Ohio.”
According to Cole, the Bikers for Charity organization has overseen the event for 17 years. It is their way of helping the community out, he said.
“I'm very kid-oriented. Anything to do with kids, I'm involved in,” he said. “Kids are where we came from, so we just help kids grow up.”
Cole said he believes the public has realized bikers aren't criminals, rather, there are a lot of respectable people who ride motorcycles. He said he is thankful the community gave so much to their effort this year.
“Prader,” a member of Brothers of the Wheel, said he was thankful for all the members of the community who donated gifts.
“We like to see kids get something for Christmas that otherwise wouldn't,” he said. “That's the only reason we go out and do this. The big thing about this is that 100 percent of the money stays in the community. We collected in Portsmouth, New Boston, Wheelersburg and there were a lot of Kentucky tags that contributed.”
Prader said the people who stop and give money are giving above and beyond their means.
In New Boston, many of the presents are delivered to the children's residences, he said.
Chris Lowery, union president for the Portsmouth Fire Department, said the voluntary effort did all it could do with the resources that had been donated.
“We had $11,000, and used every single dime of it towards presents for the kids,” he said. “On top of that, LIFE Ambulance gave us an additional 300 additional gifts. We can only do what we can do, and hopefully we can use this as a judge for next year.”
Lowery said in addition to Saturday's event, $3,000 of the donations went toward the purchase of 100 coats for the Coats for Kids program.