Lake Norman Magazine

Giving Back

Bear Robinson, founder of the Huntersville Half Marathon.
Bear Robinson, founder of the Huntersville Half Marathon.

Huntersville Half MarathonWhen fitness instructor and personal trainer Bear Robinson moved to Huntersville from Atlanta, he was pleased to find an enthusiastic and dedicated running community. Looking for a new challenge and a way to help others, Robinson, 33, organized the Huntersville Half Marathon in 2011. He also partnered with Presbyterian Hospital, which signed on as presenting sponsor and donates money raised during the 13-mile race to the Novant Healthcare Foundation. The foundation supports patients’ families who are in financial need and provides the community with access to improved medical facilities, enhanced technologies, and educational outreach projects. During the first two years, the marathons raised nearly $10,000. Moreover, participation has grown from 600 runners the first year to an anticipated 1,700 runners this year. Not only will the increased interest add to the level of competition at the race, but it will also help more people through the Novant Healthcare Foundation, says Robinson. “This gives the runners every opportunity to have a great event and support the local health and wellness community in the process,” he says. How to Help: The Huntersville Half Marathon is Dec. 14 at 8 a.m. at Birkdale Village. This year there’s also a 5k race. It’s $60 to register for the half marathon and $30 for the 5k.

Barium Springs Home for ChildrenAs regional development manager at Barium Springs Home for Children, Jill Gibson has a job that puts her squarely on the front lines of child welfare issues. The Statesville-based nonprofit provides counseling and therapeutic services for thousands of abused and neglected kids throughout 41 North Carolina counties. Barium Springs also provides for these kids a safe haven through group homes, foster care, adoption programs, and its own 1,100-acre facility, where up to 45 children reside. During the holidays, the organization works hard to provide presents for these children through the Christmas Angel Program. “A lot of kids that come to us may have never had a Christmas before,” says Gibson. “So this may be the first gift they’ve ever received. It shows them love and compassion during a hard time in their life.” Gibson hopes to collect more than 1,200 gifts during this year’s program, which not only helps children at the home but also needy children in surrounding counties.“It’s really impactful for them to know that there are people out there that do not know them, do not know their circumstances, but still love them and want to see them enjoy a special Christmas,” says Gibson.

How to Help: You can donate to the Christmas Angel Program online and include a personal note that will be printed on paper angels and used to decorate Barium’s Christmas trees. You can also consult the online Christmas Wish List and select a specific gift for a child, or drop off new, unwrapped presents at specific locations. For details go to or call 704-872-4157.

Operation Christmas ChildWhen David Keith was elected president of the North Mecklenburg Rotary Club this year, one of his top priorities was to pursue the club’s motto of “Service Above Self.” One way Rotary is doing this is through its involvement with Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse International project that fills shoeboxes with toys and gifts and delivers them at Christmas to needy kids around the world. Keith, a sales manager at Cornelius-based Artisan Signs and Graphics, says to help as many kids as possible, he urges all of the Rotary’s 100 members to participate. Last year, the group filled 85 shoeboxes with the help of Rotary members and students in Hough High School’s Interact Club. But that’s not the only way Rotary is giving back. Keith says the group also raises money throughout the year and uses the funds to buy toys as well as turkeys, hams, and other fixings for local families during the holidays. Last year, the group helped 27 families with 85 kids. “We’re definitely committed to the North Meck area,” says Keith. “We take a lot of pride in that our club is full of leaders who give back to the community.”

How to Help: For details on North Mecklenburg Rotary Club sponsorship opportunities and community service projects, go to or call 704-237-0621.

Be a Santa to a SeniorAs co-owners of the Huntersville-based Home Instead Senior Care, which provides in-home care for the elderly, Les and Roberta Farnum were acutely aware that for every disadvantaged child at Christmas who may not see any presents under the tree, there is an elderly individual who is struggling with loneliness around the holidays. The couple also knew there was a huge deficit in charitable holiday programs aimed toward seniors. Looking to change that, the Farnums launched a local chapter of the Be a Santa to a Senior program, a nationwide initiative that has delivered millions of gifts to needy seniors across the country. “Over the past 10 years, the program has become a tradition in Mecklenburg County,” says Les Farnum. “We feel great about making this happen.”The Farnums’ Home Instead Senior Care office partners with local businesses and other senior care agencies to provide gifts and companionship to seniors who may not have either during the holidays. Meanwhile, corporations work with Home Instead Senior Care to get employees to donate presents en masse.In the last nine years, the Mecklenburg County offices of Home Instead Senior Care have given gifts to 9,500 seniors, including gift cards, scarves, and gloves. “Most often, this is only gift the seniors are getting and they really cherish them,” says Roberta Farnum.

How to Help: For details on how you can help, go to

The Spokes GroupLooking for a way to make a difference in the lives of local underprivileged families, Davidson resident Andy Beard, along with friend Dick Dunn, co-founded The Spokes Group in 1994, which gives new bicycles to needy kids. During the first year of operation, Beard and Dunn, both small-business owners, raised enough money to purchase and donate about 15 new bikes. Over the past 20 years, The Spokes Group has grown dramatically, partnering with and donating bikes to other charitable organizations, including the Mooresville Christian Mission. They’ve also helped open chapters in Raleigh and Charleston. Since the group’s inception, it has given away about 32,000 new bikes, including 2,800 last year. Organizers hope to give away nearly 3,000 this Christmas. Today, Beard remains on the nonprofit’s board of directors, while his son, Will, is president, and his grandson, Richard, is vice president.“Everybody remembers their first bike,” says Andy Beard. “It gave you joy, freedom, and independence.”

How to Help: A donation of $70 purchases a new bike and a helmet. The bikes are shipped to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Bureau in Charlotte, where they’re distributed the week prior to Christmas. You can make a donation online or mail a tax-deductible check. For details go to