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The man who for years has made Christmas bright for Anderson County's most needy children was in a funk.
Gary Wash, owner of Wash's Cycle on Alton Road, spent the past seven years organizing his fellow motorcycle enthusiasts to participate in an annual toy run. This year, a busy schedule forced Wash to scrap his plans, a decision his wife said upset him greatly.
"He felt terrible and worried that he was letting the kids down," said Barbara Tumolo-Wash. "He was really broken up."
That's when Tumolo-Wash took matters into her own hands and, in only a couple days, called on the couple's group of friends to make the annual event a reality, all while keeping it a secret from her husband.
"I asked Fire Chief Bobby Hume if he thought we could do this and keep it quiet," she said, noting that Hume's department distributes the toys collected each year. "He said, 'In Lawrenceburg?'" she joked.
But by the time the day of the surprise drive rolled around Dec. 16, she said her husband was none the wiser, thanks to a plot she hatched in advance.
"I told him I had a catering event and he showed up at the shop, thinking we were going to lunch," she said. "When he came to the shop, he was shocked.
"He said it was the best Christmas present he could have received."
The event, during which bikers meet at Wash's shop and ride to Wal-Mart to purchase gifts, was unusual from the start.
The day of the event turned out cold and wet, preventing participants from hopping on their bikes and heading to Wal-Mart.
So instead, they opened the doors to Wash's and collected the gifts in the store.
"We would always get a police escort to Wal-Mart and there would be lots of bikes there," she said. "This year it was right at the shop and it turned out just great.
"We collected over 100 toys, and the fire department came over to pick them up for distribution.
"We had a great turnout of kids bringing toys in, and served chili and hot chocolate.
"It was just great, and it saved Gary's Christmas."