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Holiday Toy Run benefits Brightside

Date: 10/2/2014

HOLYOKE – Motorcycle enthusiast Bruce Rivest said last fall’s Hope for the Holidays Toy Drive and Toy Run “took on a new meaning” for him.

Rivest, assisted by Melvyn Hook and Christopher “Chico” Colon, are coordinating the logistics and riding in the events to benefit Brightside for Families and Children, based at Providence Behavioral Health Hospital.

“One boy in a wheelchair came to donate his savings to the Brightside staff,” Rivest said. “We took him out of his chair since he was 100 percent disabled and put him onto a bike. He was so happy to donate to Brightside – it meant the world to him.”

Colon echoed the sentiments of Rivest.

“It was touching,” he said, adding, “It’s hard to put into words.”

During a recent late afternoon interview at the hospital with Reminder Publications, the gentlemen noted that close to 1,000 bikers participated in the bike run last year and they hope to increase that number next month. For Hook, his personal goal is see at least 3,500 riders participate in the event.

“We want to get back to what it used to be,” he said. “We thank everyone who supported us last year and we hope you join us again with your friends.”

The three-day event will begin on Oct. 31 and continue on Nov. 1 at the Walmart store in Chicopee. During those two days, toys, gift cards and monetary donations will be collected from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The third day, Nov. 2, will feature the Toy Run organized by the Stonecutters Chapter of the Massachusetts Widows Sons from Walmart to Providence Behavioral Health Hospital. Bikers can begin assembling at 9:30 a.m. with kickstand up planned at 11 a.m. with Santa Claus once again out in front to lead the contingent of riders.The entry fee for the ride will be a donated toy, gift card or monetary donation.

Rivest noted that Walmart alone sold $10,000 in toys and gifts during the event.

“We will be collecting gifts for infants through teens,” he said, adding that trucks, games, bicycles, books, arts and crafts, and sports equipment are especially welcome.

For every item donated, a raffle ticket will be presented to the donor for a special drawing as a thank you for participating in the event.

For Rivest, the fundraiser is also a personal commitment to help other children. Adopted as a child himself from Brightside in 1970, he is motivated to give back to the organization by coordinating these two events.
“We want people to know that Brightside is still here,” said Rivest. “It makes you feel happy inside when you are helping the community and especially kids.”

Colon said his personal satisfaction is seeing how happy the kids are when they all arrive on their bikes to deliver the toys.

Brightside serves more than 550 children, their siblings and their families each year, according to Mark Paglia, director of Brightside. All of these children have psychiatric or emotional issues, or intellectual disabilities that place them at risk of being placed in a hospital setting with the potential to disrupt their already fragile families.

Paglia noted that Brightside provides counseling and family support in the homes of the children and families it serves across Western Massachusetts.

“This tangible support offers resource coordination, parenting skills development, behavioral technique instruction and many other tailored supports that work to prevent hospitalization of the child from occurring,” Paglia said.

He added that post-treatment reinforcement is provided if there is a hospital placement to assure that the gains made are maintained and the family is strengthened.

“Brightside becomes partners with families and collaborates over an extended period to assure that real change occurs,” he said.

At the end of the ride participants and supporters will enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, door prizes and raffles, and revel in a sense of accomplishment.

The Stonecutters will also sponsor an “after party” featuring the band FAT at Q Pin 2s in West Springfield. The cost is $10, which includes food and music with a cash bar. All proceeds raised will benefit Brightside. Major sponsors of the event are MIX 93.1, ABC TV 40/Fox 6, and the Stonecutters.

Businesses wishing to be a sponsor or to donate a raffle prize can contact Suzanne Boniface, Community Relations and Marketing, at 748-9935 or via email to

For more information, visit or In the event of inclement weather, participants are asked to check for an update on the logistics for the events. Just as in previous years, the men agreed that supporting causes like Brightside are important for the health of the overall community.

“That’s why the theme is Hope for the Holidays,” said Rivest.