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Christmas spirit shared with W.Va. children

December 22, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

INWOOD, W.Va. -- About three dozen children, including 10 from a family of 16 children, left the cafeteria at St. Leo's Catholic Church Tuesday night laden with Christmas spirit in the form of bicycles, Zhu Zhu pets, Nintendo games and other popular toys of the season.

Every year, Mike Powers and Mike McBrearty, longtime Inwood-area buddies, organize fundraisers to make money for their annual Toys for Kids giveaway. This year, they raised more than $5,000, which Dawn Brown, McBrearty's fiancee, spent in area big-box stores buying the presents that were handed out Tuesday.

According to McBrearty, about 36 children, all selected by local school guidance counselors, showed up for the toy-distribution party.

"We had twice as many as last year," he said, noting the recession adds more needy children every year.

"We had more families than we could take care of this year," Powers said.

"We'll start earlier next year and have more fundraisers," McBrearty said.

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Families who came in Tuesday night were also fed a traditional Christmas dinner with turkey and the fixings, and were given a complete holiday dinner to take with them to cook at home.

McBrearty started the toy giveaway 12 years ago. Powers joined him seven years ago.

They hold seven or eight fundraisers a year. Both ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles, so they adopted the Poker Run as their favorite moneymaker. Sometimes, upwards of 200 fellow bikers hit the road. According to the rules, they stop at five predetermined bars, pick up a playing card and proceed to the next establishment and get another card. At the end of the run, bikers with the best poker hands win cash prizes. A successful run can bring in $5,000 to $6,000, Powers said.

In addition to toys for kids, Powers and McBrearty hold functions to raise money for individuals in need of help through the year.

Powers works for St. Leo's and McBrearty owns Harley Construction Inc. in Inwood, a company he started 11 years ago.

"I had to sell my motorcycle to get the money to start the business," he said, hence his company's name.

Christopher and Jeanette Allen brought 10 of their 16 children for the toys. The children range in age from 2 to 18.

It took two large round tables to hold the Allen clan.

The next table over held the Clark family of Bunker Hill, W.Va., including parents, Brian and Eleana, and children Kristen, 10, triplets Doug, Wayne and Jeffrey, 9, and James, or J.T., 6.

All five Clark children listed bicycles on their wish list that Brown used on her three-day shopping trip. She picked the stores that offered the best prices and tried to find toys that were on the children's lists.

"There was only one toy that I couldn't find," she said. Other than that, "every child got what was on their lists."

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