Journal Entry # 05
Leap of Faith
May 6, 2004
It's the eve of Max & Bailey's 25,000-mile charity ride. There's no more time for test rides. The final details are just that - final. And the coming days have us feeling like we're standing on the edge of a mountain about to take a great leap of faith. We've made plans for events around the country; we've accepted dozens of school invitations and we've double-checked our gear. So, come tomorrow Saturday, May 1st, 2004, we'll make our first official ride for charity. And, though it is a leap of faith, we will be placing our faith with the American people to support our ride and the millions of individuals with disabilities for whom we're making this trip. We know they won't let us down.
Well, folks, I never got past that first paragraph last week because things were just happening much too fast. Now, we're almost finished with our first week and I am happy to report that America is doing just fine and their (and your) support has continued to be positively overwhelming. In this first week, we've been rained on, pelted with sleet, chased through towns by the local media, brought to tears by people's generosity and amazed by the beauty of North Carolina's Mountains. And Max and Bailey have taken it all in stride.
But before I talk about this week, I owe you an account of the weeks leading up to our big 'Get Out Of Town' ride. I've yet to tell you about the Outer Banks test ride or our very successful charity auction - A Tail Wagging Affair - and our Ray Price Harley-Davidson Open House event. So, if you'll indulge me, this entry will bring you up to the May 1st ride. I'll start there and then bring you completely up to date in my weekly journal entry planned for this Sunday. I promise.
First the Outer Banks run (pictures 01-09). The test ride to the Outer Banks was planned with several goals in mind. Goal #1: Pack the bikes as if we were leaving, then see what we forgot. We failed that one completely because we just weren't ready to go. All your support and emails about helping us plan events around the country left us very little time to actually pack. So, we left for the trip on the morning of April 9th with just enough clothes to make it through the weekend. Shame on us, but the weekend itself was a great success.
Goal #2: See what would happen if we showed up, unannounced, at a large bike rally-type event. This one we didn't fail. We arrived at the Outer Banks Bike Week Rally around noon on Saturday and were immediately surrounded by people interested in Max & Bailey's story. They first came to laugh and smile at the dogs in sidecars, but quickly turned their attention to why we're making this journey with the dogs. Our donation bin had to be emptied several times on that Saturday and we sold t-shirts to everyone who wanted one. Thanks to all of you who supported Max & Bailey that weekend.
The next big event was our charity auction - A Tail Wagging Affair - held on Friday, April 24th (pictures 10-15). Executive board member, JoLee Southard, was the driving force behind this event, with months of pre-planning and work going on behind the scenes. When the big day finally arrived, my phone began ringing off the hook with people canceling their plans to attend. Deb Davis from Paws With A Cause® had flown down from Michigan for the big event and we had several client/dog teams coming to the event. So, we had a representative from our majority partner, several special guests and all these great auction items, but would anyone show? I was very (very) worried.
The event began at 7:00 p.m., but by 7:30 we still only had about 40 people at the event. By 8:00 p.m. we had almost 70 attendees; a far cry from the 150 we had hoped for. But - the 70 people who did join us, spent their money like they were on a mission. It was a night of quality - not quantity - that saved the day. At the end of the evening, that small, but giving, crowd raised more than $21,000 to benefit our charity partners. Janet, our entire Board of Directors and I were speechless, touched and moved by the totals. We were also exhausted, but had to be up early again the next day for our Ray Price Open House event.
I'll admit that when the alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. the following morning, I was beginning to question this whole charity thing. But, once again, we were met with a great outpouring of support, which made the early morning sacrifice worth the effort. More than 55 riders pre-registered to ride with us the following Saturday and we sold logo gear almost faster than we could keep up.
I really enjoyed the surprised looks on people's faces when they realized that Penny Zibula, the volunteer taking their money and packing their shirts and ride registration items, was blind. She had the help of her guide dog, CJ, and several volunteers, but Penny proved that having a disability, like blindness, doesn't mean that a person can't make great contributions. She is just one example of what is possible with a good attitude, a willing service dog and a supportive community.
After the Open House event, we had one week to close out our affairs in Raleigh and prepare for the 220-day journey across America. It was a marathon race to get everything done in time, but on Tuesday we took a day for ourselves. We joined many of our board members and friends in Raleigh for an annual pilgrimage to see our favorite performer - Jimmy Buffett. They say what happens at a Buffett concert stays at a Buffett concert, so I'll simply say that we had an enjoyable time with our friends (picture 16).
Then came Friday, the day I began writing this entry. We were finally packed and ready to go. Max & Bailey moved from Goldsboro, North Carolina to a hotel in Raleigh so they'd be ready to go on Saturday morning - the day of their big "Get Out Of Town" ride sponsored by Ray Price Harley-Davidson (pictures 17-26). With 55 riders pre-registered and a police escort lined up for the 70-mile ride to Burlington, we just knew this would be a BIG event.
Then came the rains. Maybe that was our punishment for taking an evening off and going to the Buffett concert, but there wasn't anything we could do to change the weather. The way we saw it, there are more than seven million Americans who were counting on us to make this journey - rain or no rain. About 35 riders - many of them Raleigh H.O.G. members - and several members of the Raleigh Corvette Club felt the same way and lined up to await our 1:00 p.m. departure.
Just prior to leaving and with everyone looking on, Butch Evans (Raleigh H.O.G. Director) and Steve Metz (Raleigh H.O.G. Activities Director) presented U.S. Hogs For Dogs, Inc. with a $2,000 donation on behalf of the Raleigh H.O.G. association. Janet and I found ourselves wiping away tears and not knowing how, exactly, to say thank you. Luckily, the rain covered up our tears and our police escort was urging us to get ready to ride.
I'll never forget how it felt to climb on my bike, check Max's harness and look around at all the supporters who came out in the rain to see us off. In front of Janet and me was Steve Metz, our Road Captain for the ride. In front of him were several Raleigh Police and Wake Country Sheriff cars with their blue lights flashing. And behind us was a small cadre of motorcycle riders and Corvette owners who were willing to get soaked for a good cause. At 1:10 p.m. on Saturday May 1, 2004, Max and Bailey pulled away from Raleigh, North Carolina for the first 70-miles of their 25,000-mile Ride Across America.
The day's official ride ended at The Garage Motor Sports Bar in Burlington, where Mike and his staff greeted us in their ponchos in the rain. The band, Three Pump Chump, cranked up the amps and rocked the crowd all afternoon. By the time we gave out all the door prizes and announced the winner of the 50/50 raffle (who donated his winnings back to Hogs For Dogs), the event had raised almost $6,500 in soggy dollars.
We woke up to another rainy day on Sunday to begin Day #2 of Max & Bailey's 220-day ride. But that, my friends, is where this journal ends and the next one begins. Tune back in early next week for our next journal entry. You can look forward to stories that include more rain, some sleet, kamikaze wild turkeys and some amazing students & faculty at the Knoxville Montessori School.
So until next time, please continue to tell your friends about Max & Bailey's 2004 Ride Across America. For those of you who were waiting until the ride actually began to make a donation, now's the time. And for every one of you who are out there supporting this ride - this leap of faith - thanks for believing in this cause.
Max, Bailey and the entire Hogs For Dogs team thank you for your support. You can help us make a difference for millions of people with disabilities by making a donation today.
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