The Connection

Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Ride to Remember Attracts Big Response

By Jeremy Nash jeremy.nash@news-herald.net Sep 23, 2020

The Rev. Charlie Barnard and his wife, Teresa, rumbled their way back to Tellico Village on Thursday evening after completing a 7,785-mile motorcycle trip around the United States in the name of charity.

Each year the Barnards try to ride for charity, this time choosing Our PLACE, a day center for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This year’s effort collected $108,500.

“We originally set a goal of $50,000, we dropped it to $33,000 when the virus hit. Oh ye of little faith,” Charlie said. “People, I think they see the need and they responded not only in my church but the whole community. So we had a lot of support from the whole community.”

Jim Dezzutti, Our PLACE vice president, was surprised by the response.

“I think with Charlie’s leadership and the congregation’s support of First Baptist Church, as well as the local community, people are looking for things to help out, to reach out and help during these difficult times and that helps the success,” Dezzutti said.

The Barnards and Village couple Mike and Sonia Hosick visited 17 states during four weeks on the road. In July, Charlie said plans were to speak in a few states. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visitation dwindled to a couple of locations in Texas, one of which was Beth El Bible Church in El Paso. They were still able to visit national parks along the way.

“We had authentic Mexican dinner with them and got a chance to speak with them and just had a wonderful time with those folks,” Charlie said. “They felt like old friends even in just one night.”

The couple has traveled around the country for charity several years, but Charlie said this year’s trip was “interesting.”

“We’re about a month later than when we usually go, and so the weather was horrendous,” he said. “Snow chased us out of Colorado, we drove through a hailstorm in northern Arizona, 60-mile-an-hour winds in South Dakota that were blowing over tractor trailers. So the weather was totally different. With the pandemic, there were places closed, I mean odd places. Like the Petrified Forest, it’s kind of a wide open-type thing anyway, but it was closed.

“The Grand Canyon only one entrance was opened. ... New Mexico, they were shut down tighter than a drum,” he added. “We had difficulty finding gas at times.”

Shortly before starting the trip, Charlie said this year could be the couple’s last across the country. He affirmed that Sunday.

“You never know what the future holds but I’ll tell you what, we’re wore out,” Charlie said. “I don’t know that we’ll do anything like this again. Back in 2012, 2013, 2014 it was just a blast. This time it was tiring. You know, I’m 61 now, going to be 62 in December, so I’m still riding but I don’t know if I’ll ride those 500-, 600-mile a days anymore.”

A large check representing the donation was presented Sunday to Sue Newman, Our PLACE founder and president.

“I’m glad to hear that this may be your last motorcycle ride because you have set the bar so high that I don’t know where you would have to go next year to give back,” Newman said to Charlie after receiving the check.

Newman said the donation was “wonderful.”

“We’re well on our way to raising the money we need to open the facility,” Dezzutti said. “With everything that’s projected now we’re probably about halfway to the goal at this point. ... We’re continuing to move ahead. We’re reaching out to the local community. We’ve got the Committee of 100, been there, and both chambers are supporting us, so we’re really driving forward hard.”

Dezzutti said actual costs are coming in higher than the original $620,000 fundraising plan, so a loan may have to be secured to offset the additional cost. Hopes are to break ground next year on the center that will benefit Loudon County and surrounding communities.

“We should know in the next two weeks which contractor we’re going with,” he said.

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