Augusta, Ga., Mar. 15 – When I arrived at Augusta Harley-Davidson it was still dark, but there was some shadowy movement in the parking lot–the volunteers had beaten me here this time. But we wouldn’t be by ourselves for long.
The Augusta dealership was the starting point for this year’s ride. And by 10:00 a.m. that empty lot was packed with more than 300 bikers who had plunked down $25 each (five bucks for a passenger) to help expand the mission of the Kelsi Elizabeth Long Memorial Foundation, raising funds for the Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Augusta. This year more than $6,000 was collected, bringing the total to approximately $95,000 since the ride’s inception.
Mike Maddox established the foundation back in 2003 in memory of his granddaughter, who lost her life at birth due to Down syndrome. Mike explained, “One day my wife and I were at the grave putting out flowers, and my wife said that she didn’t want Kelsi to be another name on a headstone. She wanted people to know how much Kelsi is loved. We felt that we needed to do something, but we didn’t know how.” Shortly afterwards, the Kelsi Long Memorial Ride was created to keep her memory alive.
Starting at Augusta H-D, the ride ended at the Children’s Hospital where patients were holding handmade signs thanking the riders for “helping kids like me.” After the riders arrived, some of the kids came out, sat on the bikes and talked with the motorcyclists. Around noon the bikers gathered at the front entrance of the hospital and Mike Maddox presented the staff a check for the six grand raised. Afterwards the riders mounted back up and returned to Augusta H-D for food that was provided by Buffalo Wild Wings (and the grub was all first-class). The bikers were entertained that afternoon by the music of the Amy Taylor Band. Amy is a local singer-songwriter from Statesboro, Georgia, possessing a natural ability as a performer. Now based in Nashville, the Amy Taylor Band also includes Buddy Corn as lead guitarist, Darrel Patrick on drums and Travis Howell who plays bass.
Maddox told me, “Not all bikers are bad boys. It’s all about the kids now. The ride also shows a different side of motorcyclists. The biking community in this area is probably the most giving group of people that I know of.”
On this day there were a lot of fathers with a son or daughter riding as a passenger on their bike, thankful, I’m sure, for the good health of their own children. This day also serves as a reminder to both the kids and their parents for the support that they need during this difficult time of their lives. This ride also lifts the spirits of the health care workers that perform a difficult and arduous job. As Danny Cason explained it, “It feels real good to ride and help the community. Bikers are very good people, always willing to lend a hand when help is needed.”
A special thanks to Officer Lyons, Officer Smith, Officer Mobley and Officer Colon, all from the Motor Patrol of Columbia County, who led the way and did an excellent job of keeping the intersections clear for the riders. Their work made this a safe event and an enjoyable ride for everyone that day. The day included all the fixings required for a good time—the ride, food, vendors, reuniting with old friends and great music. But of course the biggest plus was helping to raise money for a good cause and seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids. There is no greater reward and I can’t wait for next year! For more information, visit kelfoundation.org.