NW Toy Run returns to Pacific Raceways

Thousands of cars will line up in the upper paddock Sunday at Pacific Raceways near Covington but it’s more than a place for gearheads to check out some sweet rides.

It’s an opportunity to give back — a car show with heart.

Sponsored by Lexus of Bellevue, the eighth annual NW Toy Run will feature close to 3,000 cars from hobbyists to racers, with the ultimate goal being to bring in donations for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots program. Import groups and car clubs from around the Northwest will participate, according to information provided by Pacific Raceways.

It all began when a blogger and car enthusiast suggested a car rally, explained Derrick Albrecht, service and parts director for Lexus of Bellevue. But, the original idea included making the event a drop off point for the Toys for Tots program.

“One of my parts employees said five years ago, ‘We should take part in this grassroots event,’” Albrecht said. “Toys for Tots is a pretty easy program to support. We just made a commitment to collect toys at the dealership, we announced our dealership as a drop off point.”

When the toy run rolled around in 2007, Albrecht said, they drove to Pacific Raceways with the dealership’s parts truck. They brought toys, hot chocolate and apple cider.

“We were just amazed,” Albrecht said. “We were there with about seven employees total with a Lexus loaded up with toys. We were just baffled at how many people showed up to the event, it was well over 600 cars that year and it has now grown to over 2,700 cars. It really started simple, it was a grassroots event, easy to explain to people, easy to get involved.”

Since then it has grown tremendously, as has Lexus of Bellevue’s partnership with Pacific Raceways and NW Toy Run.

The general manager of the dealership, Albrecht said, agreed to match whatever donations customers and employees brought in. That was three years ago.

Albrecht and his wife, Lisa, go shopping for the matching donations “then haul all that loot down to Pacific Raceways.”

At that time, Toyota of Kirkland came on board. Both dealerships are part of the O’Brien Auto Group. So, the employees from the Toyota store brought an event vehicle to the motorsports facility with a PA system.

This year, in addition to Lexus of Bellevue, several O’Brien dealerships in the Puget Sound area —Toyota of Renton, Toyota of Kirkland, Lexus, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo of Tacoma, Fisker of Seattle — are collecting donations.

“This year, each dealership will bring a car loaded with toys to the event,” Albrecht said. “We’re hoping for 3,000 cars this year. Lexus of Bellevue last year brought in just over $3,800 in toys. We buried a car last year in Target bags. You could barely recognize it was a car.”

A year ago 6,100 toys and 700 stocking stuffers were collected, according to information provided by NW Toy Run, plus more than $4,000 in cash donations came in which helped more than 3,500 children in the Northwest have a brighter holiday season. For those who attend, there will also be a new feature this year with the opportunity for lead and follow on the 2.25 mile road course as well as rides in the ProFormance Racing School BMW taxi cab.

Albrecht said many of the dealerships vendors such as Chevron and its primary body shop are involved, making donations or collecting toys at their locations.

Customers have gotten excited, too, Albrecht said. On Black Friday some customers dropped off their car for service then went shopping. When they came back, half the bags were filled with donations for Toys for Tots.

“Getting the energy and getting other people excited about it has been easy,” Albrecht said. “We know that we’re working harder than ever and we hope that bears more fruit this year.”


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