Saturday, November 26 for the annual charity motorcycle ride – Bikers Toy Run.
One by one, cyclists passed under the historic Kennedy Home archway until 725 motorcycles arrived successfully at BCH’s second-oldest location. It’s the 24th year the Harley Owners Group of New Bern (HOG) and Harley-Davidson of New Bern have organized the ride which kicks off the Christmas season for Kennedy Home’s (KH) boys and girls.
“It’s all about the kids,” says Tom Linton, president of HOG. “We want to leave them with the hope for a better future and show them there are good people in the world who care about them.”
The Kennedy Home toy run first began in 1992. Led by Jimmie Allen, owner of Harley-Davidson of New Bern, Linton has seen the efforts to bring Christmas gifts for the children and raise funds for KH grow exponentially.
“Jimmie started this ride 24 years ago with a handful of friends. It went from eight riders to the more than 1,000 this year,” Linton says.
Each ride brings new participants joining for the first time. This year’s toy run added a unique rider and an entirely new group of friends.
Jim Pennington, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, borrowed a motorcycle from one of the church’s deacons and received his legal motorcycle endorsement in order to ride in this year’s toy run.
“I was near the front of the ride and it was great to look behind me to see all the people riding,” says Pennington. “Until a year ago, we did not realize that this ride was going on right in our backyard.”
The church promoted the ride in the weeks leading up to this year’s event sharing information from both the pulpit as well as their Facebook page. Pennington saw multiple ways the church could be involved.
“As a church, we saw this as an opportunity to not only plug in at Kennedy Home, but to engage the community,” explains Pennington.
In the days before the ride, church volunteers assisted with campus clean-up and repairing the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew last October. Also, Pennington and his wife Patty attended HOG meetings to learn more about the biker community and ways the church could partner with their efforts.
“The owners’ group is all about building camaraderie and relationship through what they have in common – which is motorcycles,” says Pennington. “We went in to say, ‘How can we help you with the ride?’”
Groups of Temple Baptist volunteers worked registration tables at the Harley-Davidson dealership the day of the ride and prepared and served lunch when the bikers arrived at Kennedy Home.
After the bikers finished lunch, everyone gathered for a program at Kennedy Home’s picnic shelter which is named in honor of Harley-Davidson’s Jimmie Allen. The Harley group presented Kennedy Home with a check for $13,755 raised through this year’s ride.
The following morning, Temple Baptist Church held a special “Toy Run Sunday” worship service. The service featured motorcycles both in front of the church building as well as on the sanctuary stage. Bikers and church volunteers were recognized. The church matched the funds raised by the toy run.
Pennington is already looking towards the 2017 event, which is the 25th anniversary of the toy run. He says the church sees this year’s involvement as only the beginning.
“We would love for this to be a NC Baptist effort and have other churches participate and get involved,” asserts Pennington.