Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Zoo Run Safari For Children's of Alabama

Written by  November 1, 2018

  Over 10 years ago, we became involved with a multi-state motorcycle fundraiser event that included a half dozen or so, kids with brain tumors, this quickly became our most treasured event to do each year as we got close to these families, watching these kids grow. When we got in touch with the organizers this year to get information on the 2018 event, I was told that they had decided to pull the Alabama event to combine it with the Georgia event. 



  Well that just wasn't gonna fly with us or the motorcycle community around here, so Cycle Connections stepped up to rescue this event for these kids, they didn't look at this event as a fundraiser, it was just a day of fun with the bikers to them, one day that they may could forget about everything else if only for that day. And with the help of Larry Hardeman, we were able to expand the guest list and add even more "Stars" to the mix.


  Also, we had remained in touch with one of the families from the previous event, Alan Sibley and his daughter, Krissy, which was a good thing because the previous organizers weren't going to share information on the families with us. Alan was as excited as we were about continuing this event, so much so that he was the one to contact the local TV station, ABC 33/40 to do the first interview on the new event. 


  The next TV interview was an early morning spot that they wanted to do up on the hill behind the studio of WBRC Fox 6, with a few of the bikes, which made for an awesome backdrop by the way, well we had a group of fantastic guys who got up at the crack of dawn to make that trip with us. Many thanks to: Leigh Lilly, Kurt and Dustin Wright, Phil Zuccala JR, Chase Hersey and Luke McKleroy. 


  The next thing to do was to change benefactors to Children's of Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, which is where over 90% of the 190 plus kids each year diagnosed in Alabama with Cancer and Blood Disorders go for treatments. 


  Then we changed part of the location of the event to better accommodate the kids. The Birmingham Zoo gladly stepped into that role for us, letting our "Stars" in to the Zoo with ride passes. The next step was to secure sponsorship for the families so that the whole family would be able to enjoy a day at the Zoo at NO cost to them. That's where Sarah Walker with L.A.H Real Estate and Clint Thompson with Mortgage Banc stepped in, they not only stepped in, they went over and beyond as they also helped us to fill around 200 "swag bags" that went to all of the riders at the event, and they helped with signing in the families and manning the Coca Cola truck along with Sarah's husband Curtis.


  Rider's Harley-Davidson in Trussville, Heart of Dixie Harley-Davidson in Pelham, and Pounders Restaurant in Oneonta, were among the others contributing to the swag bags.


  Nancy and Jon Ryan along with the Optimist Club provided around 30 backpacks, and Jacob Leake and Candy Wesson with Allstate provided coloring books and crayons to go inside each of them, allowing us to give our Star kids AND their siblings a gift. We also had a little tiara for each of the Star princesses, and a little car for our Star Warriors, and who better to present those to our Stars than Miss Alabama 2013, Chandler Champion and her sister Zoë, 2nd runner up to Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen 2018.


  Also, because of the generosity of McWayne Science Center, Heart of Dixie Rail-Road Museum, Let's Play-Birmingham & Hoover, Oak Mountain Lanes, Wal-Mart in Trussville, Target in Trussville, Hooters in Trussville, Off The Wall in Crestwood and Chic-Fil-A in Leeds, we were able to provide gifts for all of the families as well. 


  Nancy Ryan also helped to secure "Mickey and Minnie" mouse, played by, Colby Gaines and Abby Holderfield, with the assist of Kirsten Holderfield and Kacie Beck. The kids and the families really enjoyed having all of them there and got some really great pictures to treasure for a lifetime.


  Jeff Ray, with the Barber Motorsports Museum stepped in and provided the location for registering our riders, arm bands AND escorted the ride around the world famous track at Barbers for 4 awesome laps! And they allowed not only our 2 photographers for the day, Jennifer Naylor and Kristy Hardin but also the Stars and their families out on to the beautiful cross-over the track bridge out behind the Museum. This is usually reserved for Members of the Museum and media. It is an absolutely beautiful location with a nature trail, water fall and the bridge itself not only has you up and over the track to watch the riders go by but there are glass portions in the bridge for you to look through, so cool!


  We had requested that the bike clubs around the area send a representative group out to help us escort these kids to the Zoo, and most of them did, giving us a nice large group that really "wowed" those kids.


  The wonderful folks at Daylight Donuts in Leeds donated a huge variety of delicious donuts for everyone to enjoy at registration along with the coffee that Sarah Walker had picked up for us from Chic-Fil-A. 


  The Jefferson County Sheriffs department provided the escorts, and I do believe they really enjoy their job just as much as we enjoy having them there. Jeff "Bama" Rich with the "Bond Slaves" was on hand to do the prayer for a safe ride before departing for the Zoo. I was told that they encountered a nun, all in white, walking down the street close to the Zoo as they were approaching; we all took that as a sign of God's Blessing on this ride!


  The ride was greeted at the Zoo with the Coca Cola truck for refreshments, BBQ sandwiches proved by Rusty's BBQ in Leeds, Golden Flake chips and Bud's Best Cookies which Denise and Greg Harrelson had secured for us, they were also one of the two lucky winners of weekend passes to the Barber Vintage Festival that included passes to the Museum that Jeff Ray had graciously donated to be raffled off. Denise also helped Lisa Bonta in registering our riders.


  After lunch everyone was turned loose on the Zoo for a day of fun at just being a kid! Everyone involved had SO much fun this day and created so many wonderful memories and are already looking forward to next year, as are we and our hopes are that it continues to grow each year, with the help of all of you.


  Let me take just a minute to introduce and showcase our awe-inspiring 2018 Super Stars!


  Starting with our Special Guest Star, Dustin J. Wright our 9-time cancer beater warrior, who joined us to show these kids what, can be accomplished. We were so very happy he joined us not only for the ride but also for the early morning interview with WBRC Fox 6. I don't know if I could have made it through that interview were it not for his brave self standing there with us. D L Wright


  Our Guest of Honor, Kim Eaton, who had lost her precious daughter, Angel just 2 years earlier to cancer, and who continues Angel's good work to this day with her "Angel's Hope" program, where she visits all the kids on the cancer floor and gifts them with little boxes of "hope".Kim Eaton


  Princess Krissy Sibley, daughter of Alan and Laurie Sibley. Krissy is a bright, beautiful 18 year old that was diagnosed with a Meduloblastoma Brain Tumor when she was only 4 years old. That took about 10 hours, and then she went through radiation and chemotherapy. This took place over about a year span of time, since then she has undergone 2 eye surgeries and surgery to insert a feeding tube. She has numerous disabilities from all of this along with all of the medications she is taking. She is now in high school, and all though she is behind her classmates, she still pushes herself, as she will create her own math problems to solve. She has 3 sisters and 3 brothers along with a 2 nephew’s and 1 niece that live with them. She loves to ride with her dad on his motorcycle, color and do puzzles and has a favorite doll named "Boy" who went with her through surgery, bandages and all.Karissa Krissy Sibley


  Princess Abigail Calvo, daughter of Kim and Yonnie Calvo. Abigail is a 10-year-old little girl that has a smile so bright that it lights up the room. Abigail has Prader Willi Syndrome and Maffuci Syndrome. She had ovarian cancer when she was 6 years old. She loves everything and everyone and her parents say that bright smile never leaves her. She loves to go walking, playing with her baby dolls, coloring and doing crafts, and watching other kids on You-Tube, and she collects "Pinky Pops". 2018 Abigail Calvo


  Warrior Braxton Canada, son of Katy and John Canada. Braxton is an 18-month-old "Wild Child" according to his mom, who showed absolutely no fear throughout his journey with cancer and continues not to fear anything. He loves being outside and playing with his brother, Bentley. He loves motorcycles, which might have something to do with his granddad "Pops", who is president of the Blount County Regulators MC, he gets excited just hearing the rumble of the bikes, a true sign of a good biker dude! His favorite thing in the world however is the "Minions" who saw him through his many hospital stays with the countless movies he would watch. He continues to this day watching at least one movie daily.2018 Braxton Canada


  Princess Reagan Watkins, daughter of David and Erica Watkins and has a brother named William. Reagan is a 7-year-old true princess who will tell you herself that she gives the best hugs! Reagan was born 3 weeks early on Thanksgiving, adding to the blessings for this family to be thankful for. They learned that Reagan had Down syndrome when she was only 2 weeks old and she had open-heart surgery 2 weeks after her 1st birthday. She was 22 months old when they found out that what seemed like a simple cold was actually cancer. She was diagnosed with AML Leukemia on September 28th 2013 and completed her last round of chemo and came home on July 17th, 2013. She is now cancer free but it has left a mark on her life as her immune system has been compromised by the chemo and they have to give her weekly transfusions at home so that she can go to school and try to be a kid. She loves spaghetti and chocolate ice cream. She loves to dance and sing (usually out of tune) and while watching movies she will pick out a favorite character in the scenes and act them out, even reciting their lines. And what really cracks her up is slime and all the mess and noise that is associated with it. She likes all things pink and "bling", typical of a little princess. She loves make up, and if you don't watch her she will use the markers for make up, good thing they now make washable markers.2018 Regan


  Princess Shelby Jernigan, daughter of Rosalyn and Troy Jernigan. Shelby is 7 years old and currently has 4 brain tumors (actually, at the time of this writing, they have grown in size and there are now 5 of them). She has Ependymoma, an aggressive Brain Cancer. Since February 2016, she has underwent brain surgery, 62 rounds of radiation, 25 Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Treatments, up to 12 medications twice daily, physical therapy, multiple hospital stays, Port and Shunt placement surgeries and is currently on Hospice. Through all of this, she has remained their smiling, loving, happy little girl, and I'm sure, a source of inspiration and strength for them all. She loves going to the beach, visiting family in Eufaula, Alabama, doing arts and crafts and her favorite color is yellow. She has 2 dogs that she loves as well, "Ace & Fitoe". Her dad has set up a "GO FUND ME" page on Shelby's facebook page, Team Shelby J where you can go to help this family out, and they sure could use the help as Troy's employer has ended his FLA and since they don't want to loose what valuable time they have left to spend with their precious little girl, he naturally doesn't want to leave her side, so they TERMINATED his job!2018 Shelby Jernigan


  Warrior Will Thomas, son of Evelyn Thomas. Will is 4 years old and was diagnosed with High Risk Pre-B-Cell All Leukemia Cancer on October the 3rd 2016 at the age of 2. He is a very sweet, loving, energetic boy who loves his family, animals, tractors and trucks and has a huge heart and loves going to church with his family. 2018 Will Thomas


  Princess Brianna Cordell, daughter of Alisha and Brian Cordell. Brianna is 5 years old and was just 2 months shy of her 3rd birthday when she was diagnosed with Pre-B SR Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. She is currently in treatment at Children's of Alabama and is expected to finish treatments ( Yea!!) on November the 8th, 2018, about a week before her birthday. She loves to swim, sing and dance, anything princess or Barbie, watching movies and eating Oreo cookies and playing with her big brother, Logan and her cousins.Brianna Cordell


  Samuel Mobley, son of Shea and Dennis Mobley. Samuel is a 4-year-old avid Auburn fan who has just finished treatments for Rhabdomyosarcoma. Samuel loves animals, like the Auburn tiger :-) dinosaurs and Sponge Bob, is crazy about his brothers, Garett and Trenton and likes to ride on the tractor with his daddy or poppa or better yet, driving his own John Deer. 2018 Samuel Mobley 2


  Princess Addie McIntosh, daughter of Shawna McIntosh. Addie is 6 years old. While Addie's family had to cancel attending the ride at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances, she was still on the guest list for the event so we are including her in this spotlight. Addie was diagnosed with Leukemia in March of 2016, when she was only 3 years old. She just completed treatment in May of 2018, Yea!! She is a happy, now healthy 1st grader and loves playing with her 2 sisters, Lyla and Lainey and her dog "Hank". Mom says she's their little "super-girl".Addie McIntosh


  Princess Kylie Hosey, daughter of Becky Atchley Guthrie. Kylie is 12 years old and was diagnosed on October the 6th, 2016 with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 9, just 3 days before her 10th birthday. She was diagnosed with Leukemia after 2 long months of being miss-diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Her end of treatments is expected to come in February of 2019. She is a budding artist who loves to draw and paint or pretty much anything art related. She loves music, her friends and family, her two doggies and her sister, Kendell and brother, Samuel.Kylie Guthrie


  I have to tell you, we left this whole experience with a profound respect for these families and most especially of these awesome "Stars" that we had the utmost pleasure of meeting, getting to know and spend time with. We wish them all the best that life has to offer them for the future and continue to pray for good health and happiness for them all. We all have so much to learn from these fabulous individuals. And we are SO looking forward to next year’s event!