Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Keith Larson's charity ride is Saturday

I rarely agree with WBT talk show host Keith Larson, but I do support his love for kids. Twice a year, he hosts a charity ride that helps area children and their families. Typically, these kids suffer from life-threatening illness, sometimes they're crime victims and sometimes they're heroes who need help.
Their stories are often told on Larson's show and these children become part of the Larson family.

One such child is Cassidy Hooper, a 13-year-old born without eyes and a nose. She's going through a two-year series of surgeries to craft a nose. She recently experienced her first smell - chicken nuggets, Larson said. Read about her story on WBTV's website.

Hooper will be one of the beneficiaries of Ride for the Kids 7 on Saturday.
Larson said listeners inspired the ride and insisted money help local children and their families.

"A lot of money is raised for large charities that are certainly worthwhile, but they can sometimes seem very distant," Larson said. "We just like helping real kids and families right here in the Carolinas."

Larson hosts a spring and fall ride. He expects the usual 200 to 300 bikers to participate. It starts at Matthews Fun Machines in Matthews and goes to Lake Norman State Park in Troutman. On the way, riders will parade through downtown Mooresville between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The group will finish at Team Charlotte Motorsports on Freedom Drive about 1:30 p.m. for barbecue by Clover-based Courtney's BBQ, and live music by Unknown Hinson.

Larson's ride is so popular, regional bands often play for free or at a reduced price. Past performers include Jimmy Ibbotson of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Gigi Dover and Robin Rogers.

The ride in April drew 350 motorcycles. The group rode from Matthews to Lowe's Motor Speedway and did a couple of laps around the track, Larson said. That ride raised enough money to send Stephen McMickens to Central Piedmont Community College on a full scholarship.

In 2007, McMickens, then 18, tried to help mortally wounded Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton when they were gunned down in a Charlotte neighborhood.

The rides also benefit the Zach Ramsey Children's Cancer Fund and the March Forth with Hope (Hope Stout) Foundation. Both charities provide financial assistance to local families with children battling life-threatening illnesses.