WASILLA — Denali Harley Davidson was able to retain their cherished Christmas tradition dedicated to supporting local families in need.
Over 125 attending kids and their accompanying adults boarded a helicopter and flew through the air with Santa Claus during the annual Biker Elves Helicopter Toy Drive, according to Denali Harley Davidson store manager Fred Becker.
“I suspect it might be one of those things that they remember for the rest of their lives. It’s just a difficult time and I’m just glad to have some sense of normalcy, to be able to actually meet and tell Santa what you want for Christmas,” Becker said.
According to Becker, their usual partner Heli Alaska wasn’t able to fly with them this year due to their hardships with COVID-19. He said they were relieved to get in touch with Alaska Helicopter Tours who stepped in to fill the role of flying a helicopter for the event. He noted that they even gave out two free tours to attendees and signed up all the volunteers for a free ride any time of the year.
“It was challenging this year with Heli Alaska unable to participate. They’ve been a great partner for the last five years. So, this COVID thing has hit them hard too… Alaska Helicopter Tours jumped right in, and they just aced it. They’ve got an incredible operation,” Becker said. “We’ve suffered 50 percent gross sales and 50 percent net sales loss this year… The stress of not knowing what the future brings has really affected us.”
Denali Harley coordinates with the Biker Elves, a local group of motorcycle riders who collect toys each year for the Mat-Su Special Santa program. Becker said they gathered about half of their total toy donations prior to the fly in event. He said they collected about 850 toys this year, and they plan to collect even more next year.
“People just brought in bags and bags and bags of stuff… We’d just like to thank the community for their support and bringing the toys, and setting the bar as high as they have for next year,” Becker said.
Becker said that he and his colleagues are planning their upcoming fundraisers and other community events for 2021, including a socially distant blood drive in January. He said they’ll continue to collaborate with nonprofits like the Salvation Army and MyHouse with the support of local motorcycle groups like the Biker Elves and Christian Motorcyclists Association.
“It’s nice to have people come in and see the motorcycle community be a part of the community, not just the scary thought of ‘big, bad bikers,’” Becker said.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org