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20131213 Penitas Law Dogs IMG 4666 featurePopcorn popped, holiday music filled the air, a Christmas tree ruled one corner of the room, and an entire wall was dedicated to a depiction of the nativity scene.

One toddler protectively held onto a package with a bright red race car inside, running circles around his family in his excitement. A young girl in purple pants and sparkly wedges clung to staff members of the Rio Grande Children’s Home, seeking whatever attention she could find, and they lovingly obliged, wrapping an arm around her as they spoke to the crowd or holding her hand, asking if she’d won anything playing Christmas bingo.

Saturday marked possibly the only Christmas these children will know this year through the annual Law Dogs toy run, when motorcyclists from around the Valley gather in Harlingen and ride up together to deliver presents to children involved with Buckner International.

This year, children from each of Buckner’s three local programs were present. The Rio Grande Children’s Home houses children “that have been abused and neglected by those that are supposed to take care of them the most—their parents,” said Monica Skrzypinski, spokeswoman with Buckner. Families also came from the Hope Center, a program that reaches out to needy families in the colonias surrounding Peñitas, as well as the Star program, which counsels families at no cost.

“Some of these families that we work with, they are looking forward to this event because these might be the only gifts that they get,” Skrzypinski said. “They are extremely happy, and they look forward this day the entire year.”

This year’s ride was rough as Saturday temperatures were in the 40s. The bikers, bundled up and still cold when they arrived, were unable to talk for a few minutes as they thawed off with coffee and hot chocolate. It wasn’t long before the men—who’d look menacing in their leather vests, boots and chains, if they weren’t so quick to smile and joke—were working the room, chatting up the children, rumpling boys’ hair and giving the girls a quick hug.

Two Santas made the trip, authentic with naturally graying hair and beards, and families had the chance to pose all their children with one or the other. They came bearing gifts (games, footballs and Disney toys, among other things) marked for each of the children present.

Allan “Yankee” Flores, one of the Law Dogs, first started the idea of toy runs eight years ago when he moved down from Houston, where a rodeo holds a similar event annually. He started with another organization, but when the group decided to take a break three years ago, they felt called to help the children’s home. They joined up with other motorcycle groups, like Bikers for Christ, and continued the tradition with the Buckner International.

“It’s about children,” said Flores, who had to hold back tears. “I get choked up. I’m from Houston, a former police officer, so I’ve seen a lot of stuff. For some of them, this is their Christmas.”

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