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To the SMRI Attendees
SMRI III, July 2011,

On behalf of the Carolina Mountain Riders, We would like to say "THANK YOU" for pouring out your Hearts, in order to help us help the kids of Swain County this Christmas. Without your help we would not be able to fulfill the needs of as many children as we have the past 3 years. This is traditionally called the Bryson City Toy Drive, but we provide much, much more than that to the kids we sponsor. Being a small community means fewer jobs for families who can barely put food on the table, much less buy additional things for Christmas time.

You may want to know how it all started. With a vision by our President, David Gunter, (native to this area) and the Carolina Mountain Riders (long before some of us were even members). It was decided to get involved and do a Toy Drive. It started by pulling an empty sleigh in the Christmas Parade. The community was asked to bring an unwrapped toy to be placed in the sleigh as it passed by. They found out that this would pay off due to the big hearts in the community. Each year as more members came on board more help and ideas evolved. We decided to set up coffee and information stands for bike rally's that came through town. The bikers were glad to see us and were very generous donating to our cause. The enthusiasm progressed to doing raffles, (where local businesses and several bike club members have donated big items like Bicycles, Diamond jewelry, an IPAD type item, auctions, yard sale items, and gift certificates. We also participate in the Bryson City Chili cook off (winning 3 times, but the big benefit is having a venue to sell raffle tickets), festivals, Theatre performances and a new one for us this year when one of our members and her colleague cut hair at the Heritage festival all day and made $300 for the kids.

In 2010 there were over 150 children on the Department Of Social Services Christmas WISH list. Our goal was to provide for at least 50 children at $100 a piece. With toy donations we received we spent less on some children and more on others depending on the needs, and what items were donated. This has expanded well past just providing toys as some of the needs are shoes, jackets, clothes, diapers, strollers, high chairs and even a heater and electric blankets. A couple of years ago a child asked for a Bible. Jacque Shook had the idea to take this request a step further, and obtained a bible for the child and personalized it for him. You can bet that Bible is in that child’s hands every Sunday. Each year we take care of what we can, and always seem to have some additional toys toward the week before Christmas. We take these last minute donations and provide them to Social Services in the days before Christmas to make sure that we have helped as many children as possible.

The week before Christmas we put on a free concert/party for the kids and families. Santa and Mrs. Claus come and greet each and every child. The whole community is invited to our Theatre jam session and they bring donations as an admission. It’s the best time ever at this event and the most blessed we have ever felt. The concert is generally the week before Christmas and we would encourage any SMRI members that would like to see how this affects the kids to join us (more details to come later). We don’t stop with just Christmas support of the kids, some special case kids we have supported during the year are kids with cancer and/or diabetes. Whether its sending flowers and balloons to the hospital to cheer them, or visiting them at home and taking something to cheer them. We have also had the unfortunate privilege of providing some assistance so that a local teen that passed away from Leukemia could have a headstone to be remembered by.

We, like you, are tugged on by groups in need and are always concerned about where the dollars are spent. It is extremely important to us that you know that every cent we earn goes toward helping the children of Swain County. Period. Unless we have to spend money to raise money, it doesn’t get spent. We do not spend money on club activities, or anything at all that would benefit us as a group. Many of you are retired, and we would invite you to come visit with us during that time when we are pulling the names of sponsored kids from Social Services. Last year we sponsored 24 families (52 kids directly and an additional 25 with our additional toys). We would love to have anyone interested to come and pick up a family “wish” list, and then contact the family to confirm clothes and shoe sizes, toy likes and dislikes, and see what it’s like to pull all this together for that family. That alone will put you in the Christmas spirit, but giving out everything at the concert will absolutely fill your heart.

By far the biggest door to open for these children, is the " Smoky Mountain Ride in". You guys have more than blessed this community and poured out your hearts to these children. Each and everyone of you, whether you spent $1.00 or $300.00 it all ads up and makes a difference. A special THANKS to all the hard work that Gary does organizing everything, and also to Kris and Mike for the vision and hard work putting the raffle together, and the people who helped them, which is so incredible. Thanks to the auctioneer people who did a fabulous job not only selling, but entertaining and making it a joyous event. We understand we owe an apology to Gayle who donated brownies for auction, and somehow they ended up on the desert table. Haven't figured that one out yet, but they must have been delicious because they were devoured. Sorry!

It wouldn't be a fish fry without 2 special people who have caught all the fish for the past 3 years. A BIG HUGE THANK YOU! to Jacque and Shorty for whom fishing is their passion, but we can’t take it for granted that it is also hard work cleaning the fish and being under the pressure to provide for all the people. We truly hope you are blessed and know that you have helped many kids. When offered to pay for the fishing license expense, they simply said that this is their contribution to the kids. It would have been easy to have all the food professionally prepared, but we have some pretty good cooks in our club, and we pride ourselves on cooking and preparing all the food for the fish fry. We get what we can donated of the food, and then put it all together ourselves. We also need to thank all the wait staff at Everett Street Diner who came and donated their time to helping us serve the food. It’s a great restaurant, and they are always willing to help us with any of our toy drive endeavors.

In closing we really can't THANK YOU enough, and surely hope we can continue to work as a Team to help support a much needed cause.

May God Bless,

Carolina Mountain Riders
 

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Great letter.
Thanks for all the ones that participated in this event.
Gary
 

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See! I told you you would feel good donating to this cause. Sure warms your heart to know you helped contribute to some small childs happiness even if you two never meet.:thumbup::thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
 

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Hey Bald Eagle, still blowing your horn after all these years (hehe) ...
seriously though, congratulations to you and all who contribute to this very worthy cause.
 
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