Since 1947 the charity Toys For Tots has brought joy and priceless smiles to millions of needy children who otherwise would have felt passed over by Santa on Christmas morning. The U.S. Marine Corps operates this wonderful charity. However, for decades the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has been such an enormous patron of it that many people erroneously believe they are the chief sponsor.
The Hells Angels contribution to Toys For Tots is warmly appreciated. At a charity drive in New York , they were joined by the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club of active and retired Marines. The Leathernecks, who were there representing the charity, presented the Hells Angels with a certificate of thanks for their contributions. The Angels also donated the $10 entrance fees to the Salvation Army.
The volumes at Hells Angels Toys For Tots drives are enormous. The Chicago Tribune details a drive some years ago that raised more than 40,000 toys from 6,000 bikers in one day.
Unquestionably the Hells Angels have been involved in drug dealing and violent and financial crimes. Yet, America has a history of compartmentalizing the good and the bad sides of their outlaws. Bonnie and Clyde as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are real-life examples. The Corleone family is a fictitious example that has taken on a life of its own.
We seem attracted to outlaw gangs that have a charismatic and good-looking leader. The Hells Angels have that in Sonny Barger, an early member and revered godfather to the Hells Angels. Barger is now old and lost his voice to throat cancer, but in his heyday he had the look, as shown here on the Hells Angels website. By all accounts, he still has the free spirit and charisma.
A personal experience motivated me to write this essay. While still in college, fate would have it that I met a member of the Hells Angels and struck up a friendship that lasted for more than 10 years. He was very dedicated to the Toys For Tots drives in the Baltimore area.
I was struck by his broad interests and conversational skills. On many occasions we played chess, and he would always give me a run for my money. But make no mistake, he had the Hells Angel look – beer gut, beard and lots of leather. He was also clearly respected by his peers and his ol’ lady.
Among friends, he had a reputation as a problem solver. Anything from household wiring and plumbing to recommending an accountant, I could always turn to him. I nicknamed him Uncle T and that stuck.
For a number of years my ex-wife and I would invite Uncle T to our annual Super Bowl party. As always, a 1963 Panhead Harley would announce his arrival. I recall our cat would always park himself on Uncle T’s lap for the whole game — another sign Uncle T had good energy.
I lost touch with Uncle T as I began to spend more time overseas. If he is still with us, he is well into his 70s now.
Christmas is a time to reflect on the good things that have happened in our lives, and to remember that we should always look for the good in those around us. It’s almost always there wanting to be discovered and shared.
Note From Mark: Although I don’t remember a specific occasion, it’s likely that Dan has met Uncle T. Also, this is my last post until January 2, when I return from a much-needed vacation. Starting next year, I’ll post only on Wednesdays. The change is part of my plan for living at a more sustainable pace. I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Note from Dan: After talking with Mark about this, I recall Uncle T, though I never heard that nickname — I knew him by his first name. I didn’t know he was an Angel. He was a good guy. There always was an interesting and unusual mix of people at Mark’s parties. One guy used to drive from Charlottesville to Montgomery County, Md., for them.