Inaugural Joker Run a success

The Rev. Charlie Barnard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Tellico Village, right, and wife Teresa wave as they end their Joker Run on Sunday at the church.

Area motorcyclists embarked on a scenic ride Sunday through East Tennessee to benefit Our PLACE with the inaugural Joker Run.

Participants met at 12:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Tellico Village before departing an hour later on a 150-mile, 4 1/2-hour ride that ended at the church.

Registration was $20 per person and all proceeds went to Our PLACE, an adult day center serving individuals in Loudon and surrounding counties with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Riders later enjoyed a hot dog supper in the church fellowship hall and raffle prizes.

The Rev. Charlie Barnard, church pastor, was pleased with participation in the ride, which raised about $1,000.

“The turnout was good,” he said. “We wanted to keep it small because it’s the first time we’ve ever done one, and we did that. We ended up with I think 20 motorcycles. Michael and Lisa Dawn (Maleske) are actually in charge of it. She and Michael actually put together the whole thing, the route and so forth.”

Michael Maleske, church member and event co-coordinator, said the idea was a part of church member and event coordinator Lisa Dawn Maleske’s fellowship ministry.

“It’s just been a lot of fun putting it together, but it’s been a lot of work,” Lisa Dawn said. “We’ve actually ridden this ride now — this is our sixth time. We started in February putting it together. Charlie and Teresa (Barnard) are from this area, so they helped out putting the route together. But then we started riding it, putting it down, putting the stops together so that each one of them were anywhere from 45 to 50 minutes apart from each other. Your typical ride is your poker ride. With it being a church event, we decided not to make it a poker ride and instead made it a joker ride.”

The joker ride is simply a “Christian version” of the typical poker ride, Michael jokingly said.

As of March 28, 2021, Our PLACE has raised $540,186 of its $850,000 goal, according to the organization’s website. Money covers construction costs as well as the first year of operations. The Joker Run is one of many events FBC has organized to benefit the nonprofit.

Barnard said there were riders present from the Tellico Riders Motorcycle Club, Faith Riders and American Legion Riders Post 120 Loudon. The ride featured several stops where participants rested and received a raffle ticket.

“It was very pleasant,” Sonya Hosick, church member and rider, said. “Riding the back country roads, it’s comfortable. You can look around and see some of the scenery, and it’s a beautiful countryside. … We had rest stops along the way. A couple were at gas stations, but one at the First Baptist Church in Calhoun. The pastor there opened up the fellowship hall, and we could go to the restroom and have water and snacks. That was so nice of him that he was really welcoming.”