The sound of support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital could be heard in the roar of hundreds of motorcycles rolling across the Midwest recently during St. Jude Rides.
The event brought 250 motorcycle enthusiasts and passengers from Peoria, Illinois, and five other cities to the St. Jude campus in Memphis September 19. “The eighth annual St. Jude Peoria to Memphis Ride was the best ever. A lot of new riders, good weather, fellowship and — most of all — more than $500,000 raised for the kids of St. Jude,” said Peoria County Sheriff Michael D. McCoy, co-founder of the event and a member of the ALSAC/St. Jude Boards of Directors and Governors.
Established in 2007, the event has raised a total of nearly $3 million. Peoria is home to St. Jude’s first affiliate clinic, which opened in 1972, and the community is a great supporter of St. Jude.
“There is no one in Peoria who doesn’t know about St. Jude and know about our clinic here. They are just very, very supportive,” said Debra Hess, who has made the trip for seven years as a passenger on her husband Terry’s motorcycle. Hess also works as an administrative assistant in the Peoria office of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude.
The group of motorcyclists is dedicated to raising as much money as they can for St. Jude, she said. They pay their own trip expenses and seek donations to St. Jude for making the 465-mile trip.
“This is a really awesome group with their hearts 100 percent in it for the kids of St. Jude,” said Hess, whose husband also does the pre-ride in which a small group of motorcyclists makes the trip a few weeks early to check on road conditions and rest stops. Terry Hess takes several vacation days from his job at Caterpillar to do the pre-ride and the trip each year, she said.
“He has a great time with it. We really enjoy it. It is an event we look forward to all year long,’’ she said.
In addition to Peoria, satellite motorcycle rides this year began in the following cities: Princeton and Kewanee, Illinois; Quad Cities in Indiana and Illinois; Kansas City, Missouri and Nashville, Tennessee.
Major sponsors of St. Jude Rides include Pekin Insurance, Jim Maloof Realty, Brewers Distributing, Drive Chevy, Kroger, Landmark, Ray Dennison, Canteen, My Place Yates City and Bremer Jewelry.