Teddy Bear Ride raises awareness for child abuse, neglect

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County (CACCC) is calling all motorcyclists to participate in the Teddy Bear Ride on Oct. 25 to raise money and awareness for abused children.

For the past 23 years, the Teddy Bear Ride has united hundreds of bikers to highlight the plight of abused children and encourage others to join the fight against child abuse.

“I think it’s a way for the community at large and all walks of life to be able to participate in a really powerful message,” said Lynne McLean, CEO of the CACCC. “There’s no excuse for child abuse. … We are so appreciative of our supporters and the many hundreds of participants who make this event possible and such an incredible visual reminder that child abuse has no place in Collin County.”

Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. at IKEA Dallas, 7171 Ikea Drive in Frisco, and will be followed by breakfast. At 9:45 a.m., bikers will rev their engines with kickstands up and begin the trek to the CACCC, 2205 Los Rios Blvd. in Plano.

In recent years, the ride has ended at a popular biker restaurant, but biker Dave “Squirrel Man” Kellaway, of The Colony, hopes the new destination will bring more attention to the CACCC.

Since its inception in 1992, the CACCC has offered free services to more than 50,000 abused and neglected children by working with law enforcement and Child Protective Services to provide safety, healing and justice, according to its website.

“Normally, we would take off and go down [State Highway] 121 and [U.S.] 75 to the restaurant and you’d only have a few spectators on the overpasses,” said Kellaway, who has participated in at least 15 rides and donated about 2,000 teddy bears. “This time I think they sensed a little lack of enthusiasm, which left a bad taste in a lot of bikers’ mouths. This will be more residential, which means more people [will watch].”

When the bikers arrive at the CACCC, they will be greeted with a celebration including food trucks, raffle prize drawings and giveaways by radio partner Lone Star 92.5. In 2014, more than 900 bikers participated in the event.

The cost to participate is $10, plus a new teddy bear to donate to the CACCC, but many bikers, like Kellaway, go above and beyond the event requirements.

“I got the itch when I turned 40 and got a motorcycle. I got to my first [Teddy Bear Ride] rally and there were hundreds of people there, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said. “I added a couple teddy bears and saw a man with a bunch and thought, ‘I could beat that.’”

That ambition, which began with 10, then 15, then 60 teddy bears, has grown each year to the point where people expect the amount of plush toys on Kellaway’s motorcycle. Routinely surpassing 100 bears, Kellaway said his goal this year is to have 138 teddy bear passengers accompany him on the ride.

But it’s about much more than publicity for Kellaway, whose bike will include about a dozen hypoallergenic bears and 10 baby bears for infants.

“What really got me was when my wife and I dropped off my bears [one year] at the center and they asked if we wanted a tour,” he said. “He took us to an unusual art room with Barbies and Ken dolls, but Barbie looked like she had a go-through with Freddy Krueger. It looked like a horror museum what these kids did to these figures … as a way to release their inner anger through art. That shows you the pain that these kids go through.”

This year, Kellaway launched a GoFundMe online fundraiser and will purchase one Build-A-Bear for every $12 he receives until Oct. 22.

One woman who donated left a comment that when she was at the Denton County Advocacy Center as a child, she chose a stuffed toy and that small gesture gave her comfort.

“The deal is if the police knock on your door and take you, you don’t know where you’re going, but you know the abuse has stopped,” he explained. “You’re in a strange place being asked all these questions and you’re scared, but they take you to this room full of teddy bears and let you pick one. These kids probably have nothing else but the clothes on their backs and a bear that’s theirs. I need bears to give hugs.

“When there’s a crisis and a tornado hits, what do you see in the neighborhood? They’re giving hugs. It’s warm fuzzies. … [The money] is not going to [a trip to] the Bahamas; it’s going to the bears.”

And while many bikers may project a tough persona, under the leather jackets they’re “teddy bears” themselves.

“They have a heart of gold,” McLean previously said. “They are some of our most powerful advocates for children.”

Source: http://starlocalmedia.com/planocourier/news/teddy-bear-ride-raises-awareness-for-child-abuse-neglect/article_ce402c1c-6949-11e5-967a-87e882d58006.html