About 50 motorcycle riders roared out of Horny Toad Harley-Davidson in Temple on Saturday morning, bound for the seventh annual Ride for a Child. Their 60-mile route took them through Little River-Academy, Holland, Salado, Belton, and eventually, to the Pit Stop Bar and Grill in Nolanville.
They rode in a staggered formation, with a three to four bike length in between. Jimmy Wheeler, ride coordinator, said they would stay around 60 mph, except when they were in city limits.
“If the weather and wind pick up, we might have to slow down,” he said.
He gave special thanks to the Bell County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments of Belton, Salado and Nolanville for assisting.
It was very cold at the outset, the sky was gray, and there was some moisture in the air.
“This is normal,” said Bruce Raymond, 66, of Killeen, whose riding name is Windward. The vice president of Forgotten Soldiers, he rode a Victory cross country tour motorcycle.
“It’s a good ride,” he said. “It’s good people. The focal point here is on abused children. We never know what the weather is going to be like. You’ve just got to slow it down and be careful—and dress in layers.”
Bling Bling, a female rider, said she was the president of the Copperas Cove chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse.
“We do any kind of awareness we can get involved with,” she said. “It shouldn’t just be one month. It should be all the time.”
Nancy Lechuga, ride chairman, said the ride is sponsored by the National Exchange Club, and that all proceeds go to Aware Central Texas Child Abuse Prevention Center in Belton, a volunteer arm of Child Protective Services.
“We get referrals from the community and Child Protective Services,” she said. “We work with them to get them the help they need.”
Aware has a family violence unit, she said, that helps with support groups and safety planning.
“The family service department is our parent aid model, to go into the home,” she said. “We have parenting and anger management classes. In this community we have a strong foundation of people coming together to help the families in need.”
Zada Jones-Collins of Harker Heights, director of family services for Aware, said the center’s hotline for families requesting help is 254-813-0968.
“We have classes in Temple, Belton and Killeen,” she said. “We also do parenting and anger management.”
In the family victims unit, she said, Aware works one-on-one with families that are suffering from some type of abuse. Aware only has eight full-time staff members, but a large number of certified and trained volunteers, she said.
“We have help within the agency,” she said. “We’re a team. We cross-reference with each other.”
And if a problem is bigger than they can handle, they connect with outside people in the community, she said.
“Our goal is to be compassionate, and committed to working with the community through collaboration,” she said.
An upcoming annual event is Que 4 Kids, April 19-21 in Nolanville, she said. The barbecue cookoff and music show will deal with child abuse, neglect and family violence.
Ursula Rushing, president of the Temple-Belton Exchange Club, said child abuse is a big issue, and that Aware is one of the few child abuse centers in Texas.