Judy DeFore was in awe as she watched more than 200 motorcycles pull out of the Harley Davidson in Macon last year. They traveled through three counties before ending their journey at the Jones County Government Center in Gray. Some riders dawned gold ribbons on their helmets, others tied awareness bandanas on their handlebars, but they were all there for one reason…to support children battling cancer in their community.
Hawgs 4 HOPE started seven years ago and DeFore has been a part of it since the beginning. “It’s a good feeling to know that you’re a small part of a big thing,“ she says. “Anything that helps children is worth supporting, but the organization this ride is for is really great.”
Proceeds from Hawgs for HOPE benefit the Jay’s HOPE Foundation. Their mission is to provide direct support services to local families with a child battling cancer. Jones County native, Gage Fountain, is one of those children. He was diagnosed with cancer when he was 8-years-old. “I remember we were in the activity room at the hospital when doctors told us,” says his grandmother, Susan Fountain. “I couldn’t think, I couldn’t hear anything else. I said, ‘I am going to be with Gage and went to his room and never left his side.’”
Shortly after that, they were introduced to Jay’s HOPE. Fountain says the organization ministered not just to Gage, but also to his entire family. For them, the social support offered has helped them feel less alone. “It feels as if the people at Jay’s HOPE are your second family,” she says. “Gage and his sister, Shelby, are very content and happy to be around everyone at the events and have formed many lasting friendships.”
Cindy Arnold coordinates the ride for the organization every year. Her 29-year-old daughter, Heather, is a childhood cancer survivor. She says there was nothing like Jay’s HOPE when she was diagnosed. “The support they offer is unparalleled,” says Arnold. “Gas and meal cards to get to treatment, financial assistance for parents who have to leave their jobs to care for their child, tutoring services, social events, the list goes on and on. These are truly needs these families have in the midst of their battles.”
It’s why Arnold decided to help raise money for Jay’s HOPE and its families. Last year, Hawgs for HOPE brought in more than $ 20,000 to be used for support services for pediatric oncology families.
Earlier this year, four years after he was diagnosed, Gage had his last treatment and Jay’s HOPE was right by his side to celebrate. “I truly believe they were handpicked by God himself to help all of us going thru this terrible disease because it affects the whole family and changes your lives forever,” says Fountain.
The 7th annual Hawgs 4 HOPE is Saturday, September 30th. Registration starts at 9:30am at the Harley Davidson in Macon. The escorted ride begins at 11:00am. It will end at the Jones County Government Center in Gray with a barbecue lunch, raffle, and door prizes. For more information about Hawgs 4 HOPE or the Jay’s HOPE Foundation, visit www.jayshope.org.