Santa's motorcycle-riding helpers will spread joy to hundreds of struggling families after the Ballarat Toy Run cruised from Buninyong to Victoria Park on Saturday morning.
The annual toy run, organised by the Central Highlands Ulysses Motorcycle Club, attracted more than 300 riders, many dressed as Santa and elves, and motorcycles of all shapes and sizes.
Soft toys were lashed on to bikes while others had more solid packages to donate to the 3BA Christmas Appeal at the ride's end.
Hundreds of toys and thousands of dollars in cash donations were handed over from bikers at Victoria Park, continuing a toy run tradition that has spanned more than 20 years.
3BA Christmas Appeal ambassador Peter Caligari, who helped create the first appeal in 1980, was on hand to welcome the toy run participants to Victoria Park and said their generosity was very welcome as demand from struggling families in Ballarat continued to grow.
"This year some of the agency registrations are up 20 per cent on last year which is a huge increase - it will go well beyond 4000 families that need help," he said.
"It's a huge amount of families and it's just a sign of the very different times, not only for families because we know retailers are also really battling at present time - it's being reflected right through every section of the community and unfortunately there's no answer."
The squeeze is also hurting donors.
"We have seen some major donors been left with no alternative but to reduce their donations to the appeal this year, which compounds the problem because the demand on the appeal and agencies is increasing but the funds available to the families are decreasing ... but the appeal will still be very very successful."
Last year the appeal raised about $280,000.
With the 3BA Christmas Appeal celebrating its 40th anniversary, the motorcycle toy run has been a partner of the appeal for more than half its life.
This year's organiser John Harkin said the hard work was worth it knowing the difference the toys and cash donations would make to families across the city.
"For the kids in hospital and people who haven't got gifts for their children, there's a whole trailer and ute load of presents and a heap more to come," he said.
Mayor Ben Taylor said the toy run was a wonderful example of community spirit.
"This should be a happy time but some people find it difficult so the 3BA Christmas Appeal and toy run is all about giving back to community and helping out where the need is," Cr Taylor said.
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"It shows great community spirit looking around the number of people and bikes that are here."
Mr Caligari said the toy run had secured thousands of toys and many thousands of cash donations over the years through the sales of $10 toy run badges, generous donations and donations from motorcycle groups.
"I've been here for every one of the 20 odd years that the motorcycle toy run has supported the appeal. It's a wonderful event not only for the appeal but for the Ballarat community," he said.
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