03/10/09 — Motorcycle party nets $10,000 for Edgewood students

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Motorcycle party nets $10,000 for Edgewood students

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 10, 2009 1:46 PM

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Randy Gray, center, and wife Pam, right, present a $10,000 donation to Edgewood Community Developmental School principal Tasha Adams from "Friends of Edgewood." Two of the Grays' children attended Edgewood, and for the past four years the couple has hosted fundraisers to benefit the school.

Six years ago, area farmer Randy Gray decided to throw a party for a few of his motorcycle buddies.

Response was so great, he toyed with the idea of taking it a step further.

"I decided that since I was paying for everything for the party, we could use it as an opportunity to do some good," he said. "We decided we would start doing a little fundraiser."

For the past four years, the annual event has become a benefit for Edgewood Community Developmental School, where two of Gray's children received services.

To date, "Friends of Edgewood" has donated more than $17,000 to the school for developmentally delayed students.

This year's event has been the most successful yet, Gray said, with $10,000 raised.

"This past year, we sold tickets because it got to the point we kind of outgrew the building we were in and needed some more room," he said. "We were having a lot of people coming by word of mouth, showing up. A lot of my friends encouraged me to just print tickets out and sell them."

From the first year, when it was held in his garage, to moving into his 7,600-square-foot farm shop, attendance has jumped from 150 to 350 people.

And even though Randy and Pam Gray's children are no longer at Edgewood -- daughter Erica, 17, receives homebound services, and Jeffrey, 10, is now at Eastern Wayne Elementary (they also have an older daughter, Ashley, 20, a student at East Carolina University) -- they still feel a pull to support the school.

"Edgewood is a unique school that assists special needs students, and I appreciate all that the teachers are doing to help these very special students learn and grow," he said.

Besides, he said, other schools have their supporters, most in the form of Booster Clubs.

"The way I looked at it, Edgewood has a lot of special needs kids and every kid out there is special needs," he said. "And sometimes, this is not to be cruel, but sometimes special needs are a burden on a family, and there's a lot of responsibility and some of the kids that go out there, maybe because the parents can't do any better or don't try to do better, they send kids out there without the things they need. Those kids have to be looked after more than a normal kid."

Gray has seen how hard teachers at Edgewood work, sometimes pulling money from their own pockets to buy supplies for their classes.

"I just felt that being that Edgewood is a special needs situation. It doesn't serve Eastern Wayne or Mount Olive or Grantham, it serves all of Wayne County," he said.

So if something as simple as a pig pickin' and a live band could pull in some funding support for the school, Gray was all for it.

"I have people come from this county, Lenoir County, Greene County," he said. "They appreciate what we do."

The tickets went for $15 each, but that's not where the big money came in, Gray said. The generosity of others surpassed his expectations.

"I had one person give me $1,000," he said. "An attorney gave me $500. There's people who donate as well as buying a ticket."

But whatever is taken in, it all goes to Edgewood. And Gray plans to continue the tradition.

"I like doing it. It's not for my kids, it's for all the kids," he said. "We talked about raising money for another organization. There's a lot of organizations that need help, but I don't see any one that's more important than that one."

School officials have taken note, and are appreciative.

"We are very grateful for this group's continued support of Edgewood Com-munity Developmental School," said Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent. "To have this group of community members take such an active role in our students' education in this way, is nothing short of amazing. Their efforts are to be commended."

"We were speechless" when the latest donation came in, said Tasha Adams, Edgewood principal.

She calls Gray "one of our honorary ambassadors who goes out into the community and spreads the wonderful news about the good things that staff are doing for children at Edgewood School. We are certainly grateful for his tenacity and caring spirit in doing what is right for children because he puts his heart and soul in it."

Gray is more modest about his contributions.

"I'm not a saint," he said. "I'm a good ole boy, but I get a good feeling in my soul for doing something to help people. As people get behind me and support me in this thing -- catering, donating food -- I have had some good help from different people, friends in a band.

"Thanks to all my riding buddies and friends for helping me. People have been good about it."