The Dixie Iron Riders motorcycle club were told just to stop by AJ’s Hearth and Kettle restaurant in Townsend to break bread with some friends, so they were a little surprised at the standing ovation awaiting them when they arrived at the restaurant.
Familiar faces dotted the room as the riders arrived. Representatives from charities such as United Way, Boys and Girls Club and Cystic Fibrosis were waiting to honor the group at the breakfast conceived and put together by Manna From Heaven executive director Stephanie Stieler and members of her board, especially DeeDee McGhee.
The Dixie Iron Riders have helped raised more than $150,000 for local charities since the motorcycle club was formed.
Organizations and individuals on hand to honor the Dixie Iron Riders included United Way, Boys and Girls Club, Cystic Fibrosis, Blount County Association of Realtors, Manna from Heaven, The Gateway to Independence, 22q13 Deletion Syndrome and Blount Today. Representatives from most of the groups took the microphone and outlined the impact the Iron Riders have had on their fund-raising efforts.
Tara Rasher with United Way thanked the riders for leading the United Way Back Roads Ride. “Last year I saw how professional they are,” she said of the Iron Riders. “That’s what these guys are all about - safety and taking care of everyone. They do it from their hearts.”
Rick Carver representing the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation thanked Dixie Iron Riders for their time. Carver recalled how the Dixie Iron Riders members toured East Tennessee Children’s Hospital and gave the children bandanas. “The way they were reaching out to these kids was inspiring,” he said. “I really appreciate what you do.”
Ed Mitchell spoke on behalf of the Boys and Girls Club of Blount County. He recalled a conversation three and a half years ago with Bill Kilgore, the public information officer for the Dixie Iron Riders. “I said, ‘We’ve got to find a way to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club. We serve 150 kids a day. It’s a development center, not a daycare.”
Mitchell said talk of a ride for the club began then, but had to be put through some hoops on the corporate level. Meanwhile, the Dixie Iron Riders came to the facility to see what the club was all about. When they showed up on their bikes, Mitchell said, the children at the club couldn’t get enough of them.
“When they rolled in, the kids were amazed. I’m sure some of them had never seen motorcycles like these before,” he said. “Next year will be our fourth annual Boys and Girls Club ride, and it has really grown over the years. These guys have been tremendous role models. I think the Dixie Iron Riders are good people doing good things in the community.”
Matt Harris with Gateway to Independence thanks the Dixie Iron Riders for their help. “These guys put on a good ride. It was very safe and professional,” he said. “We had a lot of people who came this year because it was so professional.”
Dr. Katy Phelan of Molecular Pathology Laboratory Network thanked the Dixie Iron Riders for helping bring attention to the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome. “Our goal was to raise awareness. It accomplished our goal, and it helped families,” she said. “We appreciate the effort and cooperation the Dixie Iron Riders put into this.”
Stephanie Stieler with Manna from Heaven Food Bag ministries thanked the Dixie Iron Riders for always being willing to help with rides and for helping with such tasks as unloading food being delivered to the warehouse. “These guys deserve recognition,” she said. “You are the champions of Blount County. They have the kindest hearts.”
Blount Today publisher Sherri Gardner Howell was the master of ceremonies for the event, and comedian “Bambi” entertained with a few jokes before the main event. Although he could not be there, Charter Media’s Norman Plumlee was also recognized for his help with the breakfast.
Kilgore thanked everyone for coming to recognize the Dixie Iron Riders. “We just ride for your charities,” he said. “Without you guys, there wouldn’t be a need for us. We appreciate you.”
Mike Kirby, president of the Dixie Iron Riders, said he and the other riders didn’t expect to be honored. “We don’t do it for this, but it’s an honor to be recognized by all these people,” he said.