CONYERS - Organizations like the infamous Hell's Angels have done a lot over the years to give bikers a bad name. But if you ask any of the hundreds of people in Rockdale County who have benefited from Rockdale Emergency Relief's Holiday Assistance Program, they'll tell you that the men and women of the Conyers Riding Association represent an entirely different kind of angel.
For the last 18 years, the members of the CRA have hosted the Robert Mayfield Memorial Christmas Toy Ride to raise funds and collect toys for the RER program, which helps area needy families give their kids a happy holiday by providing them with toys and other Christmas gifts.
In years past, the event has hosted as many as 450 riders and raised as much as $12,000 and a truckload of new toys.
CRA Secretary and Treasurer David Clifton said the ride is now held in memory of Robert Mayfield, a club member who was killed in 1996 while riding a motorcycle with his wife down Salem Road when a car struck them.
"Robert was a founding member of the Conyers Riding Association," Clifton said, "and he was very involved in getting the first toy ride going."
Mayfield's wife, Norma, continues to participate in the event, although she was severely injured in the collision and must use a walker or a wheelchair when she travels, he said.
The ride serves as a great way for club members to combine their favorite aspects of their organization. "As far as the members' attitude, it's something we look forward to every year," Clifton said. "We are a charitable organization. We exist for the joy of motorcycling and to do something for our community."
The group continues to support RER because of the charity's focus on helping local families, and the care with which staffers screen applicants to make sure that needy families are receiving a hand, "instead of a handout," Clifton said.
While the event's focus is placed squarely on toys during the holiday season, participants are also helping to raise funds to help the elderly and other beneficiaries of the Rockdale Emergency Relief Fund all year long.
"We help with blankets, coats, prescription drugs, rent, a gas bill and things like that," Clifton said. "It's why we're also happy to accept money, as well as toys."
According to RER Executive Director Ashley Roesler, the holiday assistance program would not exist in its current form if not for the efforts of the Conyers Riding Association. "Their effort for this is huge," she said. "It has a really direct, immediate community impact. This is what truly sustains our in-house holiday assistance program each year."
And, she said, CRA members have taken the entire workload on themselves. "The only thing that RER does is have the great pleasure and honor to show up at the event and to provide support to the ladies and gentlemen that are riding in the event," she said.
Registration for the ride will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Target on Ga. Highway 20. Admission is a new toy, or $15 cash for riders and $10 for passengers. Those who are not interested in riding are still invited to come and make a donation and enjoy the festivities before the ride takes off at 11 a.m. Tax-deductible donations may include cash, new toys, non-perishable foods and checks made payable to Rockdale Emergency Relief.
The ride will conclude at Granite Mountain Harley-Davidson. Raffle prizes will be awarded at the end of the ride, and refreshments and lunch will be served.
Colin M. Stewart may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.