Tyler surgical nurse Joni Taylor, 60, tends to patients during the workweek, but her weekends are devoted to the open road.
Her wilder side was revealed Saturday during the Fourth Annual Bikers Rule 4 School event, designed to ensure that impoverished youngsters have the educational supplies they need to succeed in school.
“It’s an old woman’s Harley,” Mrs. Taylor teased, proudly revealing her Can-Am Spyder roadster. “I’ve had it for a year and I’m just loving it … it’s the best thing in the world.”
Her husband, Jim, a longtime Harley Davidson rider now retired from the oil business, seems to approve.
“She feels comfortable on it,” he said. “We took a class on it and she did better than I did.”
They were among hundreds of riders helping with the effort, which attracted East Texas motorcycle groups and private cycle enthusiasts.
Participants left early Saturday from Tyler’s Broadway Square Mall on a tour that included preplanned stops in Arp, Bullard, Chapel Hill, Troup and Whitehouse to collect school supplies.
People Attempting To Help is the receiving entity of those supplies, organizers said.
“There are more than 22,000 children on free and reduced lunches in Smith County,” she said. “That number has grown by about 2,000 in the last year.”
And that’s just in Smith County, Ms. Duncan said. She said many families need help with basics such as food and utilities.
“This is definitely the aftermath of the recession,” Ms. Duncan said. “We’re not finished with the recession here — children aren’t going to be successful in school if they don’t have supplies.”
Items collected Saturday are to be distributed to area schools, mostly within the public school systems.
About 95,000 items, such as highlighters and notebooks, were collected during last year’s drive, and organizers expect an equally strong turnout for the current supply drive.
Devil Dog rider Gunny Moore, who helped promote the efforts, said helping out needy youngsters is the right thing to do.
“We were not going to just sit in the parking lot and wait for people to donate,” the U.S. Marine Corps veteran said. “We were going to make something happen.”
Christian Motorcyclist Association members Bill Smith and Sterling Lloyd volunteered to help with registration to represent their organization as well as the Cross Spoke Riders CMA.
Lloyd added, “They’ve (children) got to have paper and pens, and for certain classes, a lot more.”
Rider Darlene Harris of Flint attended the school supply drive with her husband, Marshall, traveling on a Yamaha V Star 1300.
The couple recently completed a 10-day honeymoon trip through Yellowstone, and couldn’t wait to climb back on the bike.
“I have eight grandchildren and their parents struggle every year to buy school supplies,” Mrs. Harris said, recalling the hardship of fulfilling her children’s school supply lists. “This is my first time (at the event); he’s done it before. The experience of riding is amazing … I really enjoy it.”
Troup dad Jack Smith and son, Jon, representing the Bandidos, used the occasion to support area youngsters and spend a little quality time together on their Harleys.
“We came out to help the fundraiser, give a donation, see folks and visit,” the elder Smith said. “I ride all the time. If I’m home, I’m riding.”
Son Jon said he’s grown up riding with his father, recalling a cross-country trip from Las Vegas to San Antonio when he was just 8.
“I remember sleeping on the back of it (motorcycle) and enjoying the ride,” he said. “I’ve been stuck on a bike ever since. I guess it’s in the DNA — I’m looking forward to many more rides down the road.”
Sponsors of Saturday’s Bikers Rule 4 School event include Bancorp South, Chick-fil-A, Corner Bakery, Lone Star Harley Davidson, Metro PCS, Scooter Pete’s, Sonic, Townsquare Media, Tricam and XTC Fitness.
Members of Athens Blue Knights Chapter 28, a law enforcement motorcycle club, showed up to both ride and sell $2 tickets for a chance to win a work trailer, using the proceeds to create a scholarship program.
“We thought we’d come over today and get into the action,” Chapter 28 President Kenneth Head, a 39-year lawman, said. “It’s for a good cause.”