Pat Jenkins, fund-raising coordinator and Poker Run Committee member of the SEMO H.O.G. chapter; Ray Sanders, Sikeston resident and H.O.G. member; and Michelle Fayette, director at the Kenny Rogers Children's Center agreed that motorcycle riders are often stereotyped as "big, bad bikers." But it is actually quite the opposite.
"We're not big bad people," Jenkins said. 'We always try to help our communities in any way. We are really giving people -- we just try to help."
She described H.O.G. as "an organization you belong to and receive camaraderie and friendship. You work together to raise money for a project."
Sanders added: "Motorcycle riders raise more money for charities than any other organization in the United States."
"They are wonderful people to get to know, they are kind, probably one of the most giving, charitable and good-hearted groups of people I have ever met," Fayette said.
"They just wear black leather and people find that intimidating," she added. "I have been amazed with amounts of money that they have raised."
Jenkins explained the Center contacted the SEMO H.O.G Chapter asking for their efforts in fund raising. After group members toured the Center, they decided to hold benefits to help it. "We do it to help the kids and it's a good place." Jenkins said. "The reason we took them on as our main project is because the money stays local."
The Kenny Rogers Children's Center reports "serving about 300 clients in nine Southeast Missouri counties. In 2002, more than two-thirds of these clients were residents of Mississippi, New Madrid, Scott and Stoddard counties.
H.O.G. also supports other foundations. They recently teamed up with the Cape Girardeau and Kirkwood Police Departments for a poker run to benefit the Special Olympics.
However, the Kenny Rogers Children's Center is the group's main fund raiser. To date, the group has raised over $39,000 for the Center.
"The SEMO H.O.G.s and Minor's came on last year as supporters," said Fayette.
"When they opened their new store, Barb and Sonny Minor approached the Center and said they would like to donate the 2004 V-Rod," she said. The V-Rod is a Harley Davidson bike that will be raffled following the run.
"We just printed 3,000 tickets and all have been sold," Fayette reported. The raffle alone produced $23,000 for the Center.
H.O.G. also sponsors a Leather and Lace dance in March, with all proceeds going to the Center. "We also have a bike show at the telethon, where people pay to display their bikes and others pay to vote on the bikes," Jenkins said.
In early May, a Poker Run was held in honor of their late friend, Larry "Big D" Diamond, formerly of Sikeston. The proceeds from this event were donated to the Center. Diamond was very influential in making the Kenny Rogers Children's Center the main recipient of the H.O.G. chapter's funds, .
A luau will be held at the Corner Bar and Grill on July 24 to raise money for the Center.
But the Poker Run is the largest fund-raiser held for the foundation. Last year, this event alone raised over $10,000. Although the run is sponsored by the H.O.G. chapter, Jenkins stressed that it is open to "any mode of transportation." Cars, trucks, and other brands of bikes are welcome to join.
Sikeston resident and H.O.G. member Ray Sanders added: "people who don't own motorcycles can participate. The Poker Run is open to anyone - cars, whatever. If it rains, you can still drive your car and participate."
Last year's run was in the Sikeston area. This year, the run begins at Minor's Harley Davidson/Suzuki Sales just south of Cape Girardeau. Participants will follow a northern route, with the last bike returning to Minor's by 4 p.m.
Registration begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 11 a.m., when the first biker leaves. The $15 registration includes the participants' poker sheet and meal. Since a poker hand has five cards, there are five stops on the run.
"At each stop, they have their cards stamped, including the beginning and end at Minor's," Jenkins explained. Then, participants present their stamped cards and draw five playing cards out of a bag to make up their poker hand.
Although the main winners here are the children, participants can also win prizes for their card hands. "Prizes are given for the best and worst," Jenkins said.
At the culmination of the run, a live auction is held. "We try to get everything donated so there are no expenses," Jenkins said.
Anyone wanting to donate prizes can bring them to Minor's. For more information, contact Pat Jenkins or Barb Minor at Minor's, 573-334-7716.