03/27/11 — Ride for Red raises money for Red Cross

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Ride for Red raises money for Red Cross

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on March 27, 2011 1:50 AM

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Glenn Barnes and his grandson, Bryce Mills, 6, prepare to take off in the annual Ride for the Red.

Six-year-old Bryce Mills proudly displayed several pins on his windbreaker Saturday commemorating the Ride for the Red, an annual charity event that benefits the Red Cross.

He was most excited, though, about having his own helmet and riding again on the back of the motorcycle ridden by his grandfather, Glenn Barnes. So much so that he didn't even wait to be asked this year.

"He told me he was coming," Barnes said.

In addition to being surrounded by motorcycles, Bryce especially liked the group's special escort. "There are cop cars in front of us," he said. "It's fun."

This year's 75-mile ride across the county was abbreviated slightly by the threat of rain, causing organizers to cut it short by about 45 minutes, Barnes said.

There were also only 31 riders participating this year, down from previous years.

Organizers attributed that to the weather, but would not allow it to dampen their spirits.

"It's just something that we all look forward to, something that we enjoy but something that the weather doesn't cooperate with," said Barnes, president of the Oakland Volunteer Fire Department and Goldsboro chapter of the Blue Knights International. "We have ridden in rain, sleet, freezing temperatures."

It's gotten to be almost a running joke that the weekend for the ride, the spring temperatures suddenly  revert to fall weather. But Barnes said despite discussions about changing the date, it was decided to keep it on the original weekend.

"Everyone knows it's the last Saturday in March every year we're going to be here," he said. "We look for sponsors and that way if we get rained out or whatever, at least we have made some money for the Red Cross."

Others also pulled through for the cause, said Samia Garner, director of development for the Red Cross, who helped organize the event.

"We have had so many people come in and make donations that weren't even riding," she said. "So many people with such good hearts, they know the weather's bad, they know there's other events going on but they know it's a good cause."

Cindy Umstead, regional health and safety director for the Red Cross, has participated in the ride since it began and wanted to take it a step further this year, on her own motorcycle.

"Every ride I have always ridden as a passenger," she said. "This year is my first year riding my own bike."

Nine months ago, she purchased a Honda Shadow 600. Since then she's been in several charity runs and was especially excited about the one that brings in funding for the Red Cross.

"I love this event," she said. "I'm just a long-time Red Cross rep -- I have been with them 20 years -- and it's just a wonderful organization and whatever I can do to support it, it does a lot of good things."

George Hodgin, owner of Auto Tech, also volunteers his time each year as a DJ, providing music and a sound system for the event.

"They asked me a couple years ago to come out and bring some music for them," he said. "It's a little contribution, maybe it helps them. Red Cross is a good cause. They do a lot of good for a lot of people, the community's got to support it."

Jaime Jones of Grantham, a member of the Ruff Riders, has participated in the ride for the past three years.

"The main thing is to get out and ride with other groups," he said. "I think it's a good cause."

Gary Whaley had his own reasons for supporting the event. As chief of the Goldsboro Fire Department, he knows firsthand what a "great organization" the Red Cross is.

"They are as far as the fire department, a resource that we have to use," he said. "When you have someone, their home is not livable, their home is burnt, you can pick up that phone and call the Red Cross.

"There's no words to describe that. Our local Red Cross here in Wayne County is an excellent organization. They have done a tremendous job for this county and this city for many years. I don't know what we'd do without them. They stand in the gap for us in a lot of situations."

Whaley also credited the Blue Knights with supporting the Red Cross and bringing other groups together to raise awareness as well as money.

Chuck Waller, executive director of the Wayne County chapter of American Red Cross, said he appreciated Barnes' efforts in making the annual event a successful one.

"Glenn and his group have been very generous with their time and efforts for many years," he said. "Many people in Wayne County have the perception that we receive government funding and nothing could be further from the truth. Folks like this and groups like this can enable us to do what we do in the county and they come back year after year.

"They understand that the needs are there and the things that we respond to in Wayne County are not going to go away."