Bike-A-Thon nets $3,780 in honor of local infant
By Hugh Fisher
ROCKWELL ó The Grace Lower Stone Bike-A-Thon to raise money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is a tradition nearly three decades old.
Yet never before has it seemed so important, or drawn such a strong response from the community.
“Who are we riding for today?” organizers asked the crowd gathered Sunday at the church’s activity building.
“Riley!” the riders shouted in response.
Riley Brilliant, the 4-month-old son of Jason and Michelle Brilliant, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a malignant brain cancer, in February. He is being treated at the St. Jude Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
This year’s ride drew participants from across the county and raised a record $3,780 for St. Jude in Riley’s honor.
Riley’s grandparents, Paula and Bill Haynes and Frank Brilliant, were on hand to thank the riders, walkers and supporters who made the event possible.
“It’s heartwarming, all the people who are supporting us today,” Paula said. “This is a wonderful congregation.”
Frank Brilliant, who is leaving today to travel to Memphis to see Riley and his son’s family, said he was proud of the local support for children in need of life-saving care.
“It’s one of those things that you really don’t realize until you need it,” Brilliant said.
About 30 riders, kids and adults alike, took off from the church at 4 p.m.
They rode a 5-mile loop on the outskirts of Rockwell, entering the city on Depot Street before turning back toward the church.
For pastor Spencer Swain, making his first trek with his parishioners, the ride was a joyful challenge.
“It’s great to see a need in the community and be able to do something about it,” Swain said.
Longtime member Bertha Miller, who used to take part in the ride every year, said she was proud to see the church helping and wished she could ride. Recent health problems keep her from hitting the road with the others.
“I told ’em I was going to come and walk behind them!” she joked.
She sponsored her grandchildren in the race, and grandson Matthew Miller said he was glad to be a part of the event.
“It feels good to help St. Jude out and know you’re saving lives, every little bit you donate,” he said.
The leisurely journey under blue skies took about an hour to complete, with organizers providing water breaks at two stops on the route where riders stopped to talk with one another and passers-by.
On Lower Stone Church Road, the family of church member Candy Broadway sprayed a garden hose for kids to ride through.
The event wrapped up with a hot dog supper outdoors at the church.
Fundraisers were honored with T-shirts and small prizes provided by St. Jude.
The biggest reward for participants was feeling they’d helped make a difference.
Alan Morgan, of Salisbury, learned about the ride through the Salisbury Post’s coverage before the event.
“I’ve given to St. Jude for years,” Morgan said. “I’ve got kids and I always knew that, God forbid anything should happen, they could go to St. Jude’s and be cared for.”
Taking part in the ride was a way to show his support for Riley and for St. Jude’s cause.
Organizer Maryann Brafford said additional donations were being accepted from those who weren’t able to attend the event.
Donations may be mailed to Grace Lower Stone Church, 2405 Lower Stone Church Road, Rockwell, NC 28138. Checks should be made payable to St. Jude Hospital.
Updates on Riley’s progress are being posted on the Brilliant family Web site at www.caringbridge.org/visit/babybrilliant.