Hummer owners unite in charity drive
Dozens of the military-style vehicles haul loads of toys to children at Camp Pendleton.
Santa's sleigh took the form of a brawny four-by-four today as dozens of Hummer owners joined to bring thousands of dollars worth of toys to children at Camp Pendleton.
The fourth annual Southern California Hummer Toys for Tots Drive began at Tustin Hummer and proceeded south on I-5 to Camp Pendleton, where Marines and their families received the toys and celebrated with the vehicle owners.
What started four years ago with a group of about 35 Hummer owners has steadily grown over the years as more enthusiasts got involved in the spirit of giving, said event coordinator Lynette Ybarra, of Tustin Hummer.
"The first year, what amazed me the most were the carloads of toys," Ybarra said. "We had asked (the owners) to just bring one."
Since then, the event has drawn more Hummer owners from a larger area. "We put this thing together and they kept asking, 'When's the next one?'" Ybarra said. Today's event drew Hummer owners from as far away as Hesperia.
Last year an estimated 110 owners and their vehicles showed up at the Tustin dealership or joined the caravan along the way, bringing about $75,000 worth of toys to the Marine base, Ybarra said; "This year's event not only drew more vehicles, but donations also increased". A final tally of toys is expected Monday.
Hummer owners saw the event as a chance to not only join with other enthusiasts for a cause, but to change perceptions about themselves and their vehicles, which have been blamed for global warming and to many are the poster child of gas-guzzling SUVs.
"It's good to be here and help out. We are thankful to have these vehicles," said Jon Bell of Orange, who gathered with fellow Hummer owners before the procession left for Camp Pendleton around 9:15 a.m.
"The reality is, we like being together with fellow Hummer owners," said Josh Derby of Las Flores, who added that charity work is part of the Hummer lifestyle.
Others cited additional goodwill efforts that Hummer owners are involved in but that the media ignores, such as the off-road rescue efforts of Hummer enthusiasts and their ability to participate in such aid because of their vehicles.
"We recover stolen cars that get dumped off cliffs in San Bernardino County," said Jim Vick of Fullerton, who also helped start the first Southern California Hummer Toys for Tots Drive and is a founding member of the H1 Psycho Squad group.
And even though the automobile industry is facing hard times, Mark Parkinson, owner of Tustin Hummer, still has an optimistic outlook, especially when events such as this one draw people together.
"When things get tough, there is a silver lining to this," he said. "People start looking out for each other."
After delivering the toys, the Hummer owners will celebrate at Camp Pendleton with the Marines, Santa Claus, a big BBQ and music provided by D.J. Brother's Entertainment.