It seems likely the comments of one mother, who declined to give her name, explain indirectly at least some of the reasons the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club decided to hold what they hope will be their first annual pizza party with Santa Claus Wednesday evening.
“This is so great,” said the woman who was attending the event in the Southern Ohio Medical Center Friends Center with two of her three children. (The oldest was attending basketball practice at the time of the party.)
“My kids have been put through the ringer this year,” the mother continued. She stated she is in the process of divorcing her husband, who she claimed has refused to get help for what she termed a serious drug problem. She added unfortunately she had to take out a restraining order against her soon-to-be ex-husband. With all that going on, the woman said it’s been tough to take her children out just about anywhere.
“This is the first time I’ve seen them happy in a long time,” she said.
Largely the idea of PMC member Tim “Mater” Clifford (all regular PMC members have nicknames) and wife Christi, who belongs to the women’s auxiliary, the pizza party attracted about 50 kids along with their parents or guardians from 13 schools all around Scioto County. Done in cooperation with Portsmouth Ambulance, the Cliffords’ shared place of employment, the pizza party was kind of an offshoot of PMC’s annual Christmas toy run.
“We were just trying to find a better way, a newer way, to do things,” Christi said. They decided to, as she put it, “to leverage” the names of PMC – recognized by Easy Rider magazine as the oldest cycle club in the country – and Portsmouth Ambulance.
As they delivered Thanksgiving dinners to schools around the area, PMC members asked administrators and principals at each Scioto County school to supply the name of one family they felt needed the most Christmas time help for whatever reason. A separate party was held for schools across the Ohio River in Kentucky.
A second big step prior to the pizza party was what the Cliffords and others referred to as “Stuff the Squad.” For several weekends, a Portsmouth Ambulance unit sat outside the Rural King store in New Boston. Visitors were asked to, well, stuff the squad with toys and other presents for kids and families. Christi said lots of people donated cash as well. Tim further talked about PMC having been out and about in the Portsmouth area as part of the Bikers for Charity Christmas drive. You may have seen PMC members hanging out on local streets collecting donations, a lot like firefighters doing a “Fill the Boot” drive.
Besides supplying the names of families and kids to help, school officials were asked to come up with Christmas wish lists for each child involved. Christi showed off information sheets filled out by the schools, which also included notes on whether or not children owned a decent winter coat, hat and a pair of gloves. On Wednesday, the Friends Center was packed with toys, bikes and lots and lots and lots of wrapped presents. But Christi said PMC first made sure each child had proper winter outerwear. A pile of winter coats and such filled one table on the Friends Center stage.
PMC still held their annual toy run but the proceeds – namely toys and such – were handed out Wednesday evening. But first the PMC women’s auxiliary had to wrap a lot of those presents.
“We had this big huge wrapping party,” Christi said, adding volunteers wrapped 212 presents in two-and-a half hours. “We had wrapping paper and tape flying everywhere.”
“I think this is just awesome,” said a grandmother, who also declined to give her name and is raising three grand kids. One of those grand kids, five, announced he had asked Santa for a “firefighter truck.”
As the evening got underway, visitors were invited to help themselves to the contents of boxes of donated pizzas lined up against a back wall of a Friends Center ballroom. Cookies also were plentiful. The highly decorated stage was filled with Christmas trees, dozens upon dozens of wrapped packages, a half-dozen or so bikes and numerous stuffed animals presumably too large to be wrapped, including, totally incidentally, a colorful stuffed unicorn.
Off to the side of the stage was a brightly lit cart laden with Christmas stockings and bags of popcorn. The stockings were stuffed with school supplies and fruit. Jet’s Gourmet Popcorn in Portsmouth supplied the popcorn. The shop was one of several local businesses who supported the event, including Giovanni’s Pizza and Larry Moore’s Trophies and Sports, among others.
“It’s all about the kids this time of year,” concluded Gene McCallister, PMC treasurer.