Photo by Caitlin Able

Northwest Indiana rockers NAWTY have brought their music to the Toyz 4 Kidz event for years, and their return following the 2020 COVID hiatus brought out a crowd of music-lovers.

KENTLAND — Toyz 4 Kidz held its closing fundraiser for the annual charity event sponsored by the Region 2 American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE) organization on Saturday, Dec. 11, in DeMotte.

ABATE of Indiana is a not-for-profit, safety, educational, charitable, and advocacy motorcyclist organization that aims to promote safety, human rights, and community protection.

ABATE of Indiana is the nation’s largest state motorcyclists’ rights organization, with a full-time staff, 350 volunteer officers, and over 100 certified safety instructors, dedicated to serving the interests of all motorcyclists.

Hosted by the DeMotte American Legion, the ABATE held a party that was open to the public, featuring a wild game feast, an auction, and performances by Northwest Indiana band NAWTY, who played rock and punk classics from the 1970’s to modern hits.

“It’s been the same band every year for quite a while,” said Junior Sunsis, an event organizer. “They get the crowd out on the dance floor. They’re local to the region, but they play all over the place.”

The event drew a crowd of people, eager to participate in providing Christmas for families and children across Newton and Jasper counties. Members of the ABATE donated items for an auction, which drew in a sum that rivalled any previous years’ donations.

“We had quite a few people donate things, and I buy stuff throughout the year. We had a bunch of people just bring stuff,” said Sunsis. “One of our buddies had made a fridge, and one of our local businesses bought that thing for $8,000. I don’t have a complete number yet, because we haven’t done our toys yet; I count the toys as well. We had $19,000 and some change [from the event]. It was just that the right kind of people turned out.”

The DeMotte American Legion waived fees for the organization to use their building for the event, but the ABATE took remaining expenses out of the net sum, including cleaning fees, alcohol, and other expenses. An anonymous donor paid for the cost of the meal that was provided to attendees.

While donations of toys are given to younger children within families who signed up to receive packages from the Toyz 4 Kidz drive, the monetary donations from the party are used to purchase gift cards for older children and teenagers who participate in the program.

“We give $50 gift cards to the teenagers, that way they get something too, especially since nowadays, kids seem to be older,” said Sunsis. “They don’t play with their toys in the later years, so we give gift cards from ages 12 on up to 18.”

See Fundraiser on Page 2

Prior to the Dec. 11 deadline, families were able to sign up to receive packages from the drive by filling out forms at their local libraries in both Newton and Jasper counties. The ABATE is holding distribution on Sunday, Dec. 19, and families will be able to pick up their packages.

“I’ve got probably over 300 kids in over 100 families that we’re helping, so it’s how it’s always been,” said Sunsis. “We give everything to you in a black garbage bag so the kids can’t see it if they come with you. Some people have to bring their kids with [them], because they can’t leave them at home or get a babysitter or what have you.”

This event has been held in both counties by the non-profit motorcycle organization for 28 years, and it has become a key event in the holiday season in both counties. Many businesses and organizations throughout both counties participated by hosting toy drop-off boxes in their locations, and some have been partners since the event’s conception.

Murphy’s Food King in Kentland is one such partner, alongside Wiers Chevy in DeMotte and Remington True Value. Every year for nearly three decades, these locations have served as drop-off sites for toys and other donations for the Toyz 4 Kidz drive.

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