More than 30 motorcycle riders took part in the annual “Ride to Clyde” Oct. 10 raising just over $90,000 for Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina (BCH). It is a record amount for the event that is celebrating its fifth anniversary.
The abbreviated ride, organized by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC), was held only in Thomasville due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event was forced to reschedule twice, at first because of COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year and later because the remnants of a tropical storm created treacherous riding conditions.
Cheers and shouts of delight broke out from the riders gathered outside Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville when an original total of $75,000 was announced. Later, after riders had departed, more contributions were tallied, bringing this year’s total to $90,564. The Ride to Clyde has now generated in excess of $275,000 for BCH through the event’s first five years.
Brian Davis, who previously served with BSC and is now a part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Faith Health Division, co-founded Ride to Clyde with Rit Varriale, pastor of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Shelby.
“We would have been excited about any amount this year,” Davis said, “but we are very excited about this exceedingly wonderful amount we have received.”
Davis explained that the majority of Ride to Clyde contributions are small ones from many people rather than large gifts from a few.
BCH honored Davis and Varriale with “Friends of Children” plaques for their work in coordinating the Ride to Clyde. Varriale could not be present and will receive his plaque later.
Normally, 150 or more motorcyclists ride several hundred miles over three days, beginning at the N.C. Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell, located on Oak Island, and ending at the Broyhill Campus of BCH in Clyde in the western part of the state. Along the way, riders stop at several BCH locations to meet children in care and learn about the Baptist Children’s Homes’ ministries. However, pandemic restrictions made this plan impossible.
The decision was made to hold a one-day ride and have motorcyclists gather in the large parking area at Rich Fork Baptist Church in Thomasville. They then rode their motorcycles through BCH’s Mills Home campus, where children stood in the yards of their cottages and cheered them on as they rode by.
Despite restrictions and periodical rain, which resulted in a decrease in the number of riders attending, support was stronger than ever. Riders raise contributions throughout the year and many send in donations even if they are unable to participate in person.
This year, because BCH had to postpone its annual “Food Roundup” in April, bikers were asked to fill the saddlebags on their motorcycles with needed items for the rescheduled food drive. Riders not only filled a van full of collected items, but several churches and riders brought truckloads of supplies on other dates.
The funds raised through Ride to Clyde are critical for helping BCH provide care and ministry throughout North Carolina and beyond. BCH started in 1885 with one location in Thomasville and now operates ministries in 29 communities, including locations in North Carolina, South Carolina and Guatemala.
BCH ministries will impact more than 100,000 people this year through its ministries to abused and neglected boys and girls, care for intellectually and developmentally disabled adults, teen mothers, single mothers and aging adults. BCH has also established 85 foster care homes through its growing Family Foster Care and Adoption ministry.
North Carolina Baptists support BCH year-round primarily through the Cooperative Program and the BCH annual offering that takes place each fall.
Michael C. Blackwell, BCH president and CEO, praised Ride to Clyde participants for “stepping up once again.”
“They understand that there is no way BCH can provide safe, Christian homes for children without their support,” Blackwell said. “This is an incredible way to celebrate Ride to Clyde’s fifth anniversary, especially In the midst of this challenging year.”
Motorcycles have become an integral part of North Carolina Baptist life, with dozens of church-related rider groups and churches planted especially to reach people who are part of the motorcycle lifestyle. Many Ride to Clyde participants are pastors and most others are church members.
Buddy Harris, 73, rode his motorcycle more than 200 miles from Wilmington to Thomasville, with stops in Lumberton and Fayetteville. It was his third Ride to Clyde.
Harris was one of five Carolina Faith Riders who came from Wrightsboro Baptist Church in Wilmington. The church sponsored a golf tournament, which had to be rescheduled several times, to help raise Ride to Clyde contributions.
Harris invited Paul Stanley, 63, who rode his Harley-Davidson from Bladenboro, where he is a member of Hickory Grove Baptist Church. Stanley said it was the first time he participated in Ride to Clyde and knew Baptist Children’s Homes is a great cause to support.
As he received the plaque from BCH, Davis recalled how he and Varriale worked with Baptist state convention staffer John Jones and others for two years to plan the first Ride to Clyde in 2016.
“I feared at first we would lose money rather than raise money,” Davis confessed. But that first ride brought in $20,000 – and totals increased over time. The five Ride to Clyde events from 2016 to 2020 have collectively raised more than $250,000 for BCH.
“Christ brings His people together as His family to impact and support those who often don’t have a family,” Davis said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mike Creswell is a contributing writer and formerly on staff with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Blake Ragsdale is director of communications for Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina.)