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13th Annual Kelsi Long Memorial Ride, Thomson, Georgia

Written by  April 30, 2015

Earlier this year, I found out about a Biker Sunday that was going to be held at 2 p.m. at White Oak United Pentecostal Church in Thomson, Georgia. Mike Maddox and Pastor John D. Biggs got together to put on the first Biker Sunday at White Oak Church, which was held six days before the 13th Annual Kelsi Long Memorial Ride. Mike Maddox’s name is well known for organizing the ride for the Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

On Saturday March 21, 2015, I headed to Augusta Harley-Davidson in Augusta, Georgia for the 13th Annual Kelsi Long Memorial Ride, which has always been one of the biggest rides in the Augusta area. I don’t know what happened this year, but only 150 bikes turned out for the ride, which was about half of last year’s attendance. I was thinking everyone just wanted to get out and ride somewhere on this clear and warm day, so this was the first time I know of, in which warm weather may have actually hurt a charity event. One good thing I saw that day was that they raised more than $6,100 for the Medical College of Georgia's Children's Medical Center. Mike Maddox and his crew raised more money with half the number of bikers. I just wonder what how much they would have raised if the other 150 riders came to ride.

Mr. Mike Maddox founded the Kelsi Elizabeth Long Memorial Foundation back in 2003 in memory of his granddaughter, who was stillborn at 81/2 months and had Down’s syndrome. “One day my wife and I were out at the grave putting out flowers, and my wife said that she didn't want Kelsi to be another name on a headstone," Mike said. "She wanted people to know how much Kelsi is loved. We felt that we needed to do something but we didn't know how. Then the Kelsi Long Memorial Ride was born to keep her memory alive.”

When it came close to the time to ride Mike Maddox called all the bikers together for a safety meeting. Mike introduced Officer Smith of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office who gave the safety talk. Mike told everyone that when the riders left the parking lot of the dealership it was no longer his ride; it was the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office ride, and they were in charge. Mike Maddox asked Marcus Walden to lead all the riders at the safety meeting in a prayer. Mr. Walden rode his motorcycle from Washington, D C to attend the 2014 ride. His first Kelsi Long Ride was back in 2009 when he was stationed at Fort Gordon. This year Marcus made the 1,300 miles round trip from Fort Belvoir, Virginia to Augusta, Georgia and back. He told me he came to support the ride and meet old friends that he had made while living in Augusta. He is a member of the Second THIEF Riders in Virginia, who help to spread the word of the Lord.

After the closing of the prayer, everyone headed up the hill to their bikes. At 10 a.m., the kickstands went up, and you could hear bikes all up and down the side road racing their engines. As the balloons floated up in the air, the Sheriff’s Department headed the group north to the Clarks Hill Dam on the Georgia side of the Savannah River, and the plan was to come back down on the South Carolina side to the Children's Hospital of Georgia. As the riders approached the Children’s Hospital, you could see kids along the way holding up signs thanking the riders for “helping kids like me.” After the riders parked in front of the Children Medical Center, some of the kids came out and sat on the bikes and talked with the motorcyclists.Around noon, the bikers gathered at the front entrance of the hospital, where Mike Maddox presented the Children’s Hospital staff a check for $6,100. The bikers then mounted their bikes and headed back to Augusta Harley-Davidson for BBQ that was provided by Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar. Like always, I was first in line to try the BBQ, and the food was so good, I wish my arm band was valid for another trip through the line.

As the bikers enjoyed the BBQ, they were entertained by the Square One Band, who had taken the stage.The Square One Band is made up of three local musicians from Augusta; each of which has at least 30 years of playing experience. They have been together since high school, and were formed three years ago after two local bands (Borderline and Tight Penny) split up. Square. James Hiatt told me they play a mixture of classic rock and country. The members consisted of Patrick Gormley on Guitar, James Hiatt on Bass, and Tim Kellerher on Drums.

In the last 13 years, the Kelsi Elizabeth Long Memorial Foundation has helped raise over $100,000 for the Children's Hospital of Georgia. The money is used to buy equipment for children with special needs. Like always, this was a special day to give the kids and parents the support they need during this difficult time in their lives. By providing both financially support, and just letting them know that people in the community are here for them. The ride also lets the healthcare workers know that the surrounding areas of Augusta appreciates the care and support given to the parents during their time of need.

Mike Maddox always has a special thanks to Officer Lyons, Officer Smith, Officer Mobley, Officer Colon and many others of the motor patrol of Columbia County, who led the way, and did an excellent job of keeping the intersections clear for the riders. They made the ride a safe event and an enjoyable ride for everyone that day. And let’s not forget the Harley Owners Group Chapter 2371, who helped with the parking and whatever else needed be done. During the day I found all the fixing for having a good time. They had a motorcycle ride to the Children Hospital, food, vendors, and music. Everyone enjoyed meeting old riding friends they haven’t seen over the winter months. The biggest plus of the day, was helping to raise money for a good cause, and seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids. What else can you ask for? I can’t wait for next year!

For more information, visit http://kelfoundation.org.