Almost 13 years, I’ve been hanging around these parts. I’ve gotten a pretty good look at you, Charlotte.
I’ve seen you bow too obediently to authority. I’ve seen you kneel before too many false gods, in too many big buildings. I’ve seen you wear your political jerseys too tightly. Sometimes, I’ve seen your real feelings on race, hidden under a too-thin veneer of Southern gentility.
But I’ve also seen you give a million dollars to help a dying young girl grant a bunch of other kids’ wishes.
I’ve seen you step up every Christmas to fill Empty Stockings, stuff Steve’s boxes with coats, and Link Kids up with Santa. I’ve seen you show them they’re Beloved with bicycles by the hundreds on December Friday nights.
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I’ve seen thousands of you “walk” your fannies off for children, put shoes on millions of small feet, and stuff the boxes with toys and gifts and love.
I’ve seen you make countless Kids Grin, cheer them on because they’re Special, and help them to personal Victories at the Junction.
And up close and very personally, I’ve seen thousands of you ride motorcycles to help kids battling life-threatening illnesses and life-sized challenges.
In “Keith’s Rides” – I hate that name but it stuck – I’ve seen you pour out love and money for kids battling leukemia, brain tumors and other cancers. I’ve seen you help a young boy blinded by a shot from his father’s gun, a teenager from the projects who comforted two mortally wounded police officers, and a girl born with no eyes or nose.
You have big hearts, Charlotte, and I’ve seen them broken by Victoria Martinsen, Spencer Griffin, Grace McGrath, Harlan “The Hero” Sullins and other young lives lost. You have full hearts, lifted by Jordan Jemsek, Dylan Jacob, Brett Gideon, and others – too few others – who’ve won or are winning their battles. You have hearts for the challenged, and I’ve seen them beat for Ross Minor, Steven McMickens, and the Amazing Cassidy Hooper.
This year’s Ride is Saturday. We’re riding for 15-year-old Demetrius Samuel of Indian Land, who’s hoping for a bone marrow transplant to beat leukemia; 4-year-old Ava Reece of Kannapolis, who’s also battling leukemia and whose mom is due in June; Betheny Childers of Charlotte, the six-year-old battling intractable epilepsy whom I’ve written about here; 5-year old Kevin Bean of Mooresville, diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor barely a month ago.
We’re also riding for a spunky guy from Lenoir, Timothy Brookshire. He’s seven. His nickname is “The Tin Man.” Among other serious ailments, he was born with a congenital heart defect. He’s missing an artery.
Appropriate, that the big hearts of Charlotte would be reaching out to help a little Tin Man.
Keith’s Ride 13 is this Saturday, April 25. To register or donate go to wbt.com/keithsride.
Larson is the mid-morning host on WBT-AM (1100).