Cheering children and visitors waved excitedly as they welcomed more than 100 motorcyclists who thundered triumphantly onto the grounds of Broyhill Home in Clyde on May 11 to deliver a record $77,674.88 for the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH).
It was a crowning conclusion for the fourth annual Ride to Clyde and not even Saturday morning’s sometimes heavy rainfall could dampen the spirits of the riders or those of children and guests gathered under umbrellas and pavilions at Broyhill for a music-and-barbecue celebration. Riders were all ages. Tom Poston of Fayetteville brought along his 84-year-old father while several riders brought their children, riding along on the seats behind them.
Motorcyclists clad in brightly colored rain gear rode their wide assortment of two- and three-wheeled motorcycles around the Broyhill cottages and down the steep road by the children before dismounting to present the large, board-mounted check to BCH President Michael C. Blackwell who beamed with delight. This year’s Ride to Clyde contribution to BCH was a healthy increase over the $55,000 the riders raised in 2018.
Ride to Clyde participants have raised in excess of $185,000 over the four years. Although the approximately 120 riders this year was about the same number of riders as in 2018, they raised more this year, said Ride to Clyde organizer Brian Davis, associate executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC).
“Many of the riders have moved to a year-round fund-raising effort for the children’s homes, and I think that accounts for this wonderful increase,” said Davis, who again made the ride on his Harley-Davidson. “Some of the riders have become very creative with their fundraising and others are enlisting businesses that are giving generously to support the work of BCH.”
That was confirmed by rider Terry Blake, a deacon at Calvary Baptist Church in Norwood, who rode his Indian Roadmaster Classic this year. His church takes up an offering during Vacation Bible School for Baptist Children’s Homes and also brings children or other BCH staff to the church to speak. They also sponsor an annual motorcycle ride with 50 to 60 bikers to Oak Ranch, a BCH home for unwed mothers.
“Every time we do some ministry with the Baptist Children’s Homes, God just blesses it so much,” Blake said.
Not your typical motorcyclists
Ride to Clyde riders mostly favor black T-shirts and jackets as do some less savory motorcyclists, but many of the Ride to Clyde riders sported Bible verses on their vests, cross emblems or church banners.
That’s because these riders included pastors and church staffers, plus riders from several Baptist biker churches and some of North Carolina’s many Christian motorcycle ministries. More than 40 Christian motorcycle groups in the state are affiliated with the Baptist state convention.
The bikers covered more than 450 miles on some of North Carolina’s most scenic byways over the four days, Wednesday through Saturday. Bikers are divided into smaller groups for safety and to reduce impact on small towns. Routes are carefully selected for both scenic value and safety. For example, left turns are kept to a minimum, because many motorcycle accidents occur when the biker is making a left turn.
They gathered Wednesday, May 8, at Fort Caswell, the Baptist state convention’s seaside conference center on Oak Island, to prepare for the ride.
A walk in the woods
On Thursday, half the riders visited Camp Duncan, a facility for girls near Aberdeen, and the other half visited Cameron Boys Camp at Cameron. Both BCH facilities are residential wilderness camps in which the young people build their own housing and live in the woods, with leaders providing structure and teaching.
Friday the riders visited Mills Home, the main campus of the 21 BCH locations across the state. There the big event was parking the motorcycles and letting preschoolers sit on them — and blow the horns, sometimes repeatedly. The kids had a great time, but no better than the bikers. Even some of the biggest, bearded and leather-jacketed bikers were shedding tears.
Friday evening at Lake Junaluska, the riders heard Shawn Fitchett, now grown and happily married with his own family, tell how moving to Broyhill Home saved his life. He told of his adoption and having to live with people who did not want him before Broyhill.
Saturday the riders concluded their ride at Broyhill Home, a BCH campus set among the mountains and hills of Clyde. Several riders were amazed to hear for the first time about these and other ministries that have become possible because Baptists work cooperatively together through the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
A penny for your soul
At Caswell, each rider was given a handful of pennies, each coin with a cross cut from the middle. Use these for witnessing or give them to BCH children as you tell them God loves them and you do too, riders were told.
One four-member team from Brookstone Church in Weaverville was able to lead a 17-year-old woman to faith in Christ during a stop in a fast-food restaurant near closing time.
“A conversation turned into a gospel conversation, and that gospel conversation turned into her asking Jesus into her heart,” said rider Dean Greene, weeping openly as he told of the encounter later and as other riders applauded and cheered.
Riders were urged to show Christian love to the children in BCH care they would meet along the way.
“Many of these children have been told that they are worthless,” Davis said. “We want to make sure when we are interacting with them that they know they are not worthless, and we want them to know they have great value, because the God who created them thinks they are so valuable He sent His only Son to die on a cross.”
“But the good news is that Jesus did not die on a cross to remain buried in a grave, but He gloriously and victoriously rose again. The resurrection means He has power over sin, death and the grave.”
“It’s a blessing to my heart today to see that these boys are being taught about the Lord, because if anything can change their lives and help them, it’s going to be Jesus Christ.”
Touching 94,000 lives this year
At a gathering at Caraway Conference Center on Thursday evening, BCH President/CEO Michael C. Blackwell told the riders the Baptist Children’s Homes would touch some 94,000 lives this year through their variety of ministries. But he also bemoaned the horrible stories of child abuse so often in the news.
Blackwell challenged the riders: “I want you to ride with power. I want you to ride with Holy Spirit power. I want you to ride with supernatural power…Think great! Be great! You are a representative of the kingdom of God.”
J. Keith Henry, the CEO of Baptist Children’s Homes, urged the riders and churches represented to consider becoming Christian foster parents for needy children. And the need is great, he said.
“16,796 — that’s how many kids were taken away from their families last year due to abuse and neglect, just here in North Carolina,” Henry said.
He said BCH has begun a new Family Foster Care ministry to provide training and licensing for couples to be foster parents through BCH. The goal is for BCH to have foster care families in all 100 North Carolina counties.
“What we need is to expand our foster care so there are Christian families these kids can go into,” Henry said.
Henry also reviewed the orphan care ministry BCH has launched in Guatemala which has two homes operating with a third home being built now. He called for volunteers to come help that work.
Rider David Smith, a member of Pinnacle Baptist Church in Canton, backed up the great need for children to have better care. He is a deputy sheriff who works with a domestic court, and he often sees kids sent to homes not near as good as the ones Baptists operate. He was impressed with what he had seen earlier in the day at Cameron Boys Camp.
“It’s a blessing to my heart today to see that these boys are being taught about the Lord, because if anything can change their lives and help them, it’s going to be Jesus Christ,” Smith said.
Smith told of talking to a boy who has been at Cameron for three months: His goal was to learn more about the Bible and to grow closer to the Lord.
“I don’t care how much money you brought to this event; you want to bring more,” Smith said.
The increased giving reflected in this year’s Ride to Clyde total suggest many riders feel the same about supporting the Baptist Children’s Homes. In a Friday night gathering at a hotel overlooking Lake Junaluska, 11 individuals and couples received special pins of honor from the Baptist Children’s Homes for collecting more than $1,000 each.
The top fundraiser this year was Keith Austin, a member of West Oakboro Baptist Church, who collected $12,220. But that amount was not without cost: Austin had promised to shave his head if he raised as much as $10,000. He lifted a scarf to display his shaved head.
Rider James Norton is a big bearded man sporting a black leather vest. He is a tree surgeon who specializes in taking down dangerous trees. But he blinked back tears after hearing how children are abused.
“I cannot imagine people not caring for children,” Norton said. “I have no words. There are no words to describe what it does to my heart. Those babies need love!”
Norton had set a goal of collecting $300 for the children, but wound up collecting well over $800.
The top church contributor this year was Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby, whose pastor, Rit Varriale, has made all four Ride to Clydes. He and Davis helped develop the original Ride to Clyde concept.
Following is a list of the top contributors, both individuals/couples and churches.
- Keith and Jody Austin — $12,220
- Jerry & June Coffey — $7,800
- Ben Bonds — $5,176.06
- Robin & Tammy Ferguson — $5,000
- Lester Evans — $1,815
- Glenda Bucy — $1,666.61
- Frank Allen — $1,590.47
- Greg & Jane Walters — $1,563
- Edward Schemper — $1,350
- Terry & Donna Troutman — $1,240
- Phillip Robinson — $1,135
- Elizabeth Baptist Church — $10,152.50
- Kinza Baptist — $4,878
- River Community Church — $2,934.10
- Carolina Faith Riders — $2,890
- Hopewell Baptist Church — $2,490
- Brookstone — $2,205
- Freedom Biker Church of Monroe — $1,986
- Kellum Baptist Church — $1,903.47
- First Baptist Church of Hickory — $1,885
- Calvary Baptist Church — $1,193.64
- Blue Ridge Biker Church — $552.50
- Freedom Biker Church — $200
Rider Dean Greene, a member of Brookstone Church in Weaverville and a professional firefighter, is so committed to the ministry to children that he got an OK from the Baptist Children’s Homes to use their logo of children’s hand prints for a custom paint job on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The small footprints on the front fender are those of his own children.
“There’s not a time I don’t look at that bike, whether it’s in the basement or I’m riding it, that I don’t pray for the Baptist Children’s Home kids,” Greene said.
Davis urged the riders to find other ways to interact with the Baptist Children’s Homes during the year, but also to find other ways to minister to needy people.
Riders Todd Brady and David Wilder urged the riders to get involved with N.C. Baptists on Mission, whose volunteers continue to restore houses damaged by Hurricane Florence. Brady is pastor of River Community Church in Fayetteville, and Wilder works in rebuilding efforts with Baptists on Mission in a four-county area around his home in Scotts Hill, near Wilmington.
Wilder told of a young man whose house was flooded and stayed four months with the Wilders. Wilder was surprised to learn that the young man had spent time at the Cameron Boys Camp.
“We don’t know who this (Ride to Clyde) thing will touch,” Wilder said.