The Rev. Charlie Barnard and wife, Teresa, have for years melded motorcycle adventure and charity in their recurring Ride to Remember.
Charlie, who serves as pastor at First Baptist Church in Tellico Village, started the effort in 2013 following several years of bicycling. This year’s ride will involve 7,000 miles Aug. 26-Sept. 16.
The first year benefitted Good Samaritan Center of Loudon County after Charlie spoke with friend Karen Bowdle, who at the time served as Good Sam executive director. That effort raised $3,000-$4,000, he said.
“What made it even more shocking was all the people that followed us on this social media, and we get back to Tellico Village after that first trip and we had like eight or 10 widows who said to us, ‘Well, what are we going to do now?’” Charlie said. “Every night they had been tracking us where we’d been and what we’d been doing. We thought, ‘Wow, we’ll do this again next year’.”
“The thing we found out was if you give people a venue of giving, some way of not just throw it in the mail or whatever, but if you give them something that’s kind of exciting and fun and personable, it just exploded,” Teresa added. “The next year we did it again but we did it for dentistry and we raised $22,000.”
The Barnards then got Chick-fil-A in Lenoir City on board as a sponsor, which Teresa said helped tremendously.
Audrey Young, Chick-fil-A operator, jokingly said “whatever they ask for we do.” Chick-fil-A provides return party or kickoff dinners for the Tellico Village couple’s annual trip.
Money that would have gone toward meals gets put into fundraising efforts, Charlie said.
This year’s goal was initially $50,000, but Charlie said it was dropped to $33,000 due to COVID-19 concerns. The virus doesn’t appear to have made a dent in fundraising efforts, he said.
“What’s beautiful this year is that in all the past rides it’s been primarily my corporate sponsors and my church,” Charlie said. “First Baptist has really been a driving force. That’s pretty true still today, except now we’re starting to see other people coming in. There’s this new Tellico Working Together where the civic organizations and other churches, we’re all trying to work together on a community-wide projects.
“We’re starting to see that work with this Ride to Remember, because we’ve got some other churches and some other, like Kiwanis Club and Lions Club and Rotary Club, and they’re starting to get involved with this as well,” he added. “So we’re seeing more money coming in from outside of our church this time in comparison with the past.”
Money this year will go toward plans for Our PLACE, an adult day center in Tellico Village that will benefit Loudon, Monroe and Roane counties.
“This is the first time we’ve ever raised money for a disease, for a health care issue, and Teresa’s a nurse, so this is near and dear to her heart,” Charlie said. “... It’s a much needed thing, too, especially with our aging population in communities like Rarity Bay and Tellico Village and so forth.”
“It just kind of fell in that Our PLACE was cranking up wanting to look ahead and get that started,” Teresa added. “It’s the first time we’ve had an opportunity to do something for health care, so it was a great plan.”
Charlie jokingly said the couple was “getting old” and could “retire from motorcycle fundraising.”
“In regards to charity, who knows,” he said. “Back when we were in our 50s it was a lot easier. Now that we’re in our 60s, it’s getting harder to do those 500- and 600-mile days.”
This year’s ride will span 16 states and include stops at national parks and speaking engagements at churches and at least one Alzheimer’s unit along the way.
“Basically we raise all of our money before we go, so we’re not going to be looking for more money out of anybody,” Charlie said. “All we do is bring greetings from East Tennessee, tell them what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how we’re doing. Maybe to inspire somebody else to do something similar. So we’re speaking in Georgetown, Texas, Cottonwood, Ariz.
“We’re hoping to speak in Kansas City — that one’s still not been lined up,” he added. “We’ve been asked to speak in Bemidji, Minn., but I still haven’t worked out the details on that.”
This year Charlie hopes to eat a different type of ice cream — his favorite food — in each state.
The Barnards will be riding with Villagers Mike and Sonia Hosick, who first rode with them in 2018.
“We decided on this trip we’re going to be within an hour of the Canadian line, we thought, ‘Shoot, we’ll just take our passports and go on up’,” Charlie said. “Basically, we’ll be right there the Mexican border, too, when we’re in El Paso. I hadn’t even thought about that. Yeah, we’re going to be touching Mexico and Canada.”
Plans are to send photos to FBC to post on the church website.
Corporate sponsors this year are Chick-fil-A, Alcoa Good Times, First Baptist Church in Tellico Village, Matlock Tire Service & Auto Repair, Merrill Lynch of Knoxville and the Doug Jensen Family. To help contribute, sponsorship forms can be found at www.ourplacetn.org or www.fbctellicovillage.org. Gifts include T-shirts and departure dinner tickets.
The couples are scheduled to return at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16 at the church. There will be two departure dinner seatings at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 26.
“What we’ve done in the past is have a return dinner but now with the virus we’re not sure about that. We’ll have some sort of return party,” he said.