Toy run in doubt over dumping

FLORENCE KERR AND CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014

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The future of a long-running charity motorcycle run is in doubt after bag loads of toys donated for children with cancer were found dumped in the Waikato.

The discovery has shocked motorcyclists from the Waikato branch of the Ulysses Club, which has collected toys for 29 years, and caused a rethink on the run's future.

Eight bags of pre-loved soft toys marked "Toy Run 2014" were found at a Waikato rubbish tip on March 2, the day of the last toy run. They were rescued, washed and donated to children at a community event last weekend.

Waikato Ulysses Club co-ordinator Rowena Smith referred the Waikato Times to the Child Cancer Foundation.

Foundation public relations and communications manager Megan Horsburgh said the dumped toys were from 2012's ride and were considered a "health risk" for children suffering from cancer who were undergoing chemotherapy.

"The reason was that they smelt like mothballs, and weren't safe."

Mrs Horsburgh said brand new soft toys made it to the children.

"Our top priority is the children being safe," she said.

Mrs Horsburgh said the foundation donated surplus toys to rotary clubs, the migrant association and Child Cancer offices in Nelson and Whakatane.

The remaining toys were dumped because of the lack of storage space.

She said the foundation was considering whether to continue with the ride, and was working with the club.

Foundation fundraising and business development manager Sharon Robertson said the foundation had made it "very clear" that they only wanted brand new and good quality soft toys, but the donations were hard to police.

"Half the time we don't see what's happening because the public just put them in the truck.

"We had already discussed this going forward and it can't go on this way. Going forward we are looking at maybe a digital pet? We don't know, but there will be a change."

Toy Run rider Frank Dibben, of Hamilton, was unhappy with the way donations were being treated, since the message the Child Cancer Foundation only wanted new toys had never been passed on to bikers in the years he had been riding.

"My grandchildren and other children have given up their own toys, some of them are pristine. What would my granddaughter say if she knew toys were dumped? That would really upset her. It's not very nice to know."

Ulysees Club national president Mike Dew said: "It's unfortunate that toys are

dumped in that manner."

The South Island Toy Run he was involved in, for St John Ambulance, specified no soft toys.

Ulysses Club national vice-president Howard Mansell, who had taken part in similar runs in Auckland for the Salvation Army, said charities could specify what should be collected.

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"That would not be a bad thing to happen," he said. "It's quite possible that people could bring stuff along that's not really acceptable. I understand why the Child Cancer Foundation would not want to pass on some of it to children."

Waikato District Health Board spokesperson Mary Anne Gill said the hospital had received toys from the Ulysses Club run over the years but none this year since they had caused "storage issues".

Ulysses Club riders have been raising funds for the foundation through the toy run for 29 years.

This year they raised $13,000 for the children.

- Waikato

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