’Twas about two weeks before Christmas — Dec. 11 to be exact.

Outside First United Methodist Church in Seymour, students from Jackson County Head Start were excitedly stirring far louder than any mouse.

In the distance, there arose such a clatter, and they all stood waiting to see what was the matter. And what to their wondering eyes did appear? A motorcycle pulling Santa in a sleigh.

For 69 students of the Jackson County Head Start program and 110 of their siblings, Christmas came early this year — thanks to the local chapter of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education and others in the community.

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The nonprofit organization, which focuses on motorcycle safety and philanthropy, has organized what is fondly referred to as the Christmas toy run for 36 years.

ABATE member Donna McCoy said when the program first began, members collected broken toys, repaired them and then delivered them along with food and small gifts to individual families in need throughout the community.

The program has since evolved into providing gifts for students of the Jackson County Head Start. Donations from local firms and individuals allow the ABATE chapter to purchase new toys, wrap them and have them delivered by Santa Claus (member Darrell Crockett).

“The businesses have been phenomenal,” McCoy said. “The community is behind us in a big, huge way. It’s an ABATE effort, but it’s a community effort as well.”

The group spent approximately $4,600 on toys, which it collected through a fundraising motorcycle ride it does each year in September and corporate sponsorships from community businesses it collects all year.

“Sponsorship, and donations allow us to succeed and help Head Start each year, and it helps the community because it stays local,” said McCoy. Any leftover funds at the end of the program are donated directly to the Jackson County Head Start to help with expenses.

“It’s a good program,” said Lori Sutherland of Seymour as she stood next to her 5-year-old son, Joshua Sutherland.

“He always likes his gift, unless it’s clothes,” she joked as Joshua unwrapped his gift.

Levi Mora, 10, of Seymour also enjoyed his gift although he was a little shy about talking. Levi, one of three siblings of a child in the Head Start program, just nodded his head yes when whether he liked the remote control racecar he unwrapped.

The ABATE chapter also gives presents to siblings of Head Start students, and all receive candy.

For the students, the annual event means receiving a gift they might not have otherwise received this year. It might be a doll, a remote control car, LEGOs or any other numbers of games and toys.

For the parents, the gifts often ease the burdens of Christmas time by providing presents for all the children in the family. For Santa and his helpers in ABATE, the events means spreading more Christmas cheer and joy.

“It makes my heart happy,” Donna McCoy said.

Aaron Piper is a photographer and reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at apiper@tribtown.com or 812-523-7057.