You can't judge a book by the cover, and you certainly can't judge a biker by his beard and tattoos (or by her chaps and leather vest). That should be pretty clear from the Talimena Rally and everything the riders do for kids with cancer. As founder and event coordinator Neil Jones always says, "It's all about the kids."
Talimena Rally – Providing Hope for Kids With Cancer
Talimena Rally "Cruisin' for St. Jude" is an annual
event where everything
– all the
registration fees, food
purchased, donations –
is intended to help children with cancer receiving treatment at St.
Jude Children's Research Hospital.
rally is really
quite an adventure. Riders start off at Texarkana, Arkansas, and wind
up at Mena, traveling a portion of the Talimena Scenic Drive. When
the rally nears Mena, local police block the roads for safe passage
and an impressive procession down the mountain. And it's not just
bikers either. An Oklahoma slingshot group, the Oklahoma Blue
Knights, often make the trip, as well as people without bikes, in
cars and other vehicles.
event is a chance to ride the motorcycling terrain of Arkansas while
raising money for cancer research. All proceeds from the motorcycle
rally go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. This year's
headquarters for the event will be the Arkansas Convention Center in
cost to participate is $80 before
May 1 and
$100 after that date. This includes two group rides, point runs, four
meals, a rally T-shirt (for the early registrants), and live music by
bands including Mike Mayberry and the Slow Hands on Friday night with
the Bone Dancers on Saturday night. As for riding, a "Riding the
Hills" group ride has been scheduled for May 24 that will
include riding through the back roads of Arkansas to Glenwood. The
following day (May 25) will be a group ride to Queen Wilhelmina
including part of the famous Talimena Scenic Byway.
year in June, rally participants are welcome to ride to Memphis,
Tennessee, to deliver the money raised, along with doo
rags for the kids donated by Wholesale
For Everyone, directly to St. Jude. They can also tour the
facility and see exactly where their money is going.
Transparency, according to Jones, is a top concern.
at the 2019 Talimena Rally
year's rally was a resounding success. Funds delivered to St. Jude to
help the kids totaled an impressive $43,095.57. And that brings
the total donated over the past seven years to over $200,000. But the
success of the Talimena Rally isn't measured in dollars alone.
For example, Tyson donated a bunch of chickens. So, to raise money for the kids and St. Jude, some rally participants cooked
chickens on an
oversized grill beside the road. Other participants were able to
purchase chicken dinners, and an additional $4,000-$5,000 was raised
to benefit kids with cancer.
Jones had more to tell . . .
Greg and Cindy Boyett, for instance. At one point, they got up in
front of everyone to give their thoughts. They had, they said, no
idea that just one man like Jones could touch so many people. As a
result . . . they just can't tell him no.
Misfits, a club out of Fayetteville, AR, stopped at a restaurant on
their way back home from the rally. One of the members told Jones
that, as they were discussing their rally experience, half of them
began crying. They were so touched and overwhelmed that so many
people had been touched and so much good done for the kids.
- The Texarkana Emergency Center, thanks in large part to Dr. William "Bo' Kelly, made a sizeable donation to help the kids.
- Tim Covey, who holds barbecue competitions, raised funds through these culinary efforts.
- Contractor Richard McBroom successfully solicited donations at construction sites.
two couples who had lost children to cancer came to the rally to give
talks because their children had been treated at St. Jude.
pretty obvious that, as Jones said, "God has His hand on this."
Rags for the Kids
mentioned the donated
doo rags, and here's the story on Wholesale For Everyone's
involvement with the Talimena Rally . . .
year, Neil personally delivers hundreds of doo
(the quintessential biker headwear) to the kids at St. Jude. He is
for them the "Biker Santa." He takes
these doo rags to the
to the kids there – doo rags in all colors, but pink doo
rags for the girls.
may seem like a small thing, but it does a lot to lift up a suffering
child. Jones offered this touching illustration. . .
taking the rally proceeds and donations and doo rags to St. Jude a
couple of years ago, Jones encountered a little girl named Zoe. (He
has a granddaughter with the same name, which made the incident all
the more impactful for him.) Zoe had been treated at St. Jude when
she was one year old. But now at three years old, she was back because
the cancer was back. When Zoe saw Jones in his biker regalia and
wearing a doo rag, she came running up to him pointing at the doo rag on
of course, had no hair – but she got her own doo rag. Her mother's
response? "God bless you guys."
was first looking for
doo rag donors, he contacted Wholesale
He talked to Jeff on the phone who said he'd talk to Dan Weaver, the
owner of Wholesale For Everyone. Dan said he would gladly donate the
doo rags for this cause – and has been doing so for the past four
the next trip to St. Jude, Wholesale For Everyone will be donating
100 doo rags because, as Jones emphasizes, it really is all about the
Little About St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (as that redoubtable resource Wikipedia says) was founded in 1962 and "is a pediatric research facility focused on children's catastrophic diseases, particularly leukemia and other cancers. The hospital costs about $2.8 million a day to run, and there is no cost to the patient to be treated. It is located in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a nonprofit
really, that description just barely scratches the surface of what
St. Jude actually is and does . . .
Jude, one of the twelve Apostles, is the patron saint of hopeless or
desperate causes – and a child with cancer certainly fits that
bill. This saint can provide hope for those who find themselves in
desperate or dire circumstances. And that's exactly what St. Jude
Hospital does as well – bolstering hope for afflicted children by
providing free treatment and searching for cures.
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital "is leading the way the
world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other
life-threatening diseases." In fact, St. Jude has increased the
survival rate for kids with leukemia from 4% to 94%. And they won't
stop till no child dies from cancer.
out this touching
video about young Olivia who is currently receiving treatment for
leukemia at St. Jude.
unique hospital, then, has two simple goals: 1) staying "at the
cutting edge of the latest medicine and research" and 2)
"freeing families from the biggest burden in getting life-saving
health care: the cost. . . . Families never receive a bill from St.
Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family
should worry about is helping their children." The hospital
operates almost entirely on funds received from gracious donors like
those involved with the Talimena Rally "Cruisin' for St. Jude."
New for the Talimena Rally in 2020
has, he told us, already been hard at work putting together the 2020
Talimena Rally. And there are some exciting things coming up.
rally had about 235 participants last time, but in 2020, 300+ are
expected. People keep coming back and bringing others with them. It's
like a big family gathering. And that means they've outgrown the Elks
and are now staying in the Texarkana Convention Center before setting
out for Arkansas. In fact, the Texarkana Convention Center is offering
a dramatic discount to rally participants on rooms. The venue has 117 available rooms,
and 60 of them are already booked for rally participants.
the menu will be a little different in 2020 at the big fund-raising
feed for riders. This time instead of a fish fry, it will be
there will be some new sponsors, 3
State Harley-Davidson from Bossier City, LA, for example. Jones
called new owner Ronnie Dees to tell him about the rally and see if
he wanted to get involved. Dees immediately offered to make a donation and will be at the rally with some cool Harley-Davidson products.
Another enthusiastic new sponsor for 2020 is Veronica Brown of the town of Greenwood, LA.
event," Jones said, "has turned into something I never
could have imagined a few years ago."
We Do It
For Everyone is proud to be a donor for and partner with such a
worthy effort as the Talimena Rally "Cruisin' for St. Jude."
and event coordinator Neil Jones probably explained it best. He said,
when asked why he worked so hard to put on the Talimena Rally, "My
whole mission is to give these babies a fighting chance – to try to
find a cure for cancer." That just about says it all.
Harris, Director-ECC Services, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital,
expressed her gratitude to Jones and everyone involved with the Rally
this way: "It's through
commitment like yours that we are able to provide the best possible
care to more than 260 children every day without further burdening
their families with the medical expenses involved in treating a child
with a catastrophic illness. . . . Together we do make a difference
in the lives of our children suffering with the most horrible and
devastating childhood diseases."
you too can get involved – to ride and/or donate.