JANESVILLE — Thirty tow trucks paraded through Janesville on Saturday to spread holiday cheer.
Trucks were decorated with tinsel and stockings. One truck had Santa’s sleigh and reindeer on its flatbed. Others carried large boxes designed like Christmas presents.
When the tow truck drivers arrived at Traxler Park, they delivered more than 1,000 toys to the Salvation Army and ECHO. The toys will be donated to local families.
The parade was part of the Tow Trucks for Tots program, which collects toys for children and promotes the towing industry. Worldwide Equipment Sales of Rockdale, Ill., and the Wisconsin Towing Association organized the event.
Pat Winer of Worldwide Equipment started Tow Trucks for Tots a few years ago.
He said tow trucks often would form a parade as part of a funeral procession when a tow truck driver died.
“We wanted a tow truck parade when everyone would laugh and have a good time,” Winer said. “We thought, ‘What would be better than collecting toys for children?’ ”
Worldwide Equipment does a tow truck parade every year in Illinois, he said. The company also organizes a parade and toy giveaway in other cities that might need help.
Janesville was chosen because the General Motors plant and other businesses have closed, creating a hardship on families, Winer said. GM makes many tow trucks.
“The people who built those helped the towing industry,” he said. “We wanted to help them.”
Tow trucks from Wisconsin and Illinois were in the parade. They had their lights flashing when they drove. Police cars, ambulances and fire trucks also participated in the parade.
When the trucks arrived at Traxler, about 75 people helped unload presents. They formed assembly lines to pass the presents from the trucks to other vehicles that will take gifts to the Salvation Army and ECHO.
“Look at these people. They’re all smiling and happy to be helping out,” Winer said.
Steve Davis of Davis Citgo in Janesville and the Wisconsin Towing Association said fundraisers were done to buy toys. He said the towing association asked its members to donate and help.
“This time of year it’s a good thing,” Davis said. “It’s a good day for Janesville.”