They came on short notice, they stopped up traffic twice, and they made a lot of noise.
The Chick-Fil-A Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America made its way through Bryan County along Hwy. 80 on July 19 before making a pit-stop in Pooler to say hello to fans and refuel at Sam’s Club.
The 2,800 mile journey from Maine to Miami was on day six during its Pooler stop, and concluded Friday when riders finally got the chance to "relax at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.," the ride’s press release said.
"The incredible support from our dedicated fans, sponsors, and riders have made the ride what it is today," said NASCAR driver Kyle Petty in the release. "My wife Pattie and I are still amazed by the individuals across the nation whose generosity touches the lives of deserving children and their families."
The concept for Ride Across America was created by Petty in 1995, "combining his passion for helping others and his love of motorcycles."
Now on its 13th run, this year’s ride had roughly 285 participants, all riding to benefit Victory Junction Gang Camp and other children’s charities. Overall, "the ride has logged more than 45,000 miles, encompassed more than 5,350 riders, and donated more than $9 million to charity," said the release.
"We really appreciate Kyle Petty coming out to Pooler," said Pooler Mayor Mike Lamb. Lamb thought their stop-off was a great opportunity for the community, and was "glad [Petty] decided to do it."
Petty took the time to meet and greet with every last fan that came out to Sam’s Club on Thursday morning. He signed autographs all the way around, including on many Sam’s Club employees’ nametags.
Other featured riders for 2007 included NASCAR racers Harry Gant, Steve Park, Burney Lamar, and Lamar’s wife – supermodel Niki Taylor. Former University of Georgia running back and football legend Herschel Walker was also a rider, but had bike difficulties which prevented his stop-off in Pooler. According to other riders, Walker planned to rejoin the group at their next stop.
Riders John Dunkin, David Andreas, and Kyle Erickson have been doing the race for one, two and nine years, respectively. "The world looks different from a motorcycle," said first-timer Dunkin. "It’s a great way to see the country, smell it, and be in it," added Andreas. Erickson started out as a passenger in the race nine years ago and now, at age 21, and has been a rider for four.
The Victory Junction Gang Camp is a non-profit organization founded in honor of Petty’s son, Adam. The camp, located in Randleman, N.C., opened in 2004 to "enrich the lives of children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses by creating camping experiences that are memorable, exciting, fun, empowering, physically safe and medically sound," said the release.
This week’s Race Across America efforts will allow 125 children to attend the five-day camp for free. More information about the camp can be found at www.victoryjunction.org.
Chick-Fil-A is in its fourth consecutive year of supporting the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, and was the title sponsor this year. "The positive impact the ride provides to deserving children…is what makes this ride so special," Dan Cathy, President of Chick-Fil-A, said in the release. Both Dan and his brother Ross Cathy were riders this year.
For the first time in the race’s history, fans, media, and ride supporters also had the chance to follow the ride virtually. The site tracked the route, updating each day with audio journal entries and interviews along with Petty’s personal journal entries, and video footage and photos. To see more of the Ride Across America, visit www.chick-fil-akylepettycharityride.com.