Anita Salas, founder of Adopt an Angel, collects toys Sunday afternoon during the eighth annual Car, Truck, Bike & Big Rig Christmas Toy Drive in Edinburg. (A. Colleen DeGuzman | [email protected])

EDINBURG — Lovers of lowriders and all things classic cars and pickup trucks gathered here Sunday afternoon to put their polished vehicles and generosity on display.

The men hopped off their vehicles — some with painted flames — carrying boxes of bubbles or dolls in their hands to donate to the eighth annual Car, Truck, Bike & Big Rig Christmas Toy Drive.

The event was hosted by local organizations Adopt an Angel and Cruize 4 Cause and held at the parking lot of CC Truckers LLC.

“It’s all about the happiness for the kids, that is why I love this so much,” said Juan Lopez, founder of Cruize 4 Cause.

As some stopped by to drop off toys, others parked along the side to add to the growing show of classic cars. However, some of the vehicles were missing their owners.

Next to the toy drop-off station were posters memorializing those part of local car clubs who died this year — most due to COVID-19.

The cherry red 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI parked next to the toy drop-off station belonged to Julio Rodriguez, who succumbed to the virus in July. He was 38 years old.

His oldest daughter, Julisa Rodriguez, 16, was at the toy drive and said he always looked forward to the event. It combined his two favorite things: cars and giving back to the community. He went every year.

“He was so loving and caring, and he liked a lot of cars and car events and shows,” she said.

Jesse Ramirez’s black and maroon 2006 Chevrolet Silverado was parked next to the trucks of his friends of Phatboy Racing, a local car club. Ramirez was 40 when he died due to cancer this year.

The collected toys will be passed out to children living in colonias identified by Casa of Hidalgo, and Rio Grande Valley Families & Friends of Murdered Children Inc.

Additionally, Lopez is a human remains transporter for Elite Transportation & Clean Up of McAllen, and said since he spends his days driving around the Rio Grande Valley, he has a good idea where to find families in need.

“Every time I see a colonia I can help, I wait for this day, for December, to be able to take them these toys,” he said.

Since Cruize 4 Cause began taking part in the drive, Lopez with his twin 6-year-old daughters and 8-year-old son have spent every Christmas Day delivering toys to less fortunate children.

“My kids, they’re already used to it,” Lopez said. “In the morning they don’t open their own presents, they go with me and deliver the presents and when they come back they open their own presents. I am teaching them how to be humble, and I want people to know that others care for them.”

Anita Salas, Julisa Rodriguez, Luis Rodriguez and Jose Rodriguez gather in Edinburg for a toy drive on Sunday near Julio Rodriguez’s car. Julio died of COVID-19 in July. (A. Colleen DeGuzman | [email protected])

Anita Salas is the founder of Paragon Promotions, a company that assists local fundraisers that involve car shows which opened its Adopt an Angel branch eight years ago. She shares the same drive for fostering kindness and joy for needy families this season.

“Our goal is to plant seeds into this new generation to keep the spirit of Christmas alive, the spirit of giving and kindness, and to put Christ back into Christmas,” Salas said. “It’s more than just a toy, we want to bring smiles to children’s faces so that when they wake up, they can receive a toy that is coming from a complete stranger that loves them and cares for them.”

Lopez noted last year’s event was much bigger, with about 180 vehicles in attendance and about 500 toys collected. Early in this year’s toy drive, about a couple dozen vehicles were present, but he said if the drive brightened up just one child’s day, then the event would have been worth it.

“I don’t know how many people are going to come by, but God is good and I know we will supply where we are needed,” he said.