VIS bear hunt benefits Children’s

Pelham’s third, fourth and fifth graders are a brave group.

Along with their student council advisor, Cynthia Thornburg, these Valley Intermediate School students are capturing bears and other animals around the city — stuffed animals, of course, all for a good cause.

Thornburg belongs to the Birmingham Chapter of HOG which stands for Harley Owners Group. So how does a school teacher become involved with a motorcycling group?

“I grew up showing and riding horses. I moved to Alabama and fell in love with a golfer,” Thornburg said. “We both love the outdoors, so we bought a Harley to ride and enjoy together.”

Thornburg and her husband belong to HOG chapters associated with both Heart of Dixie Harley in Pelham and Riders Harley Davidson in Trussville — the group who began the Teddy Bear Ride 16 years ago. This unique group of motorcycle lovers is committed to serving the community.

Nov. 7 will mark their 16th–annual Teddy Bear Ride, benefitting Children’s Hospital, when the bears will be transported via Harleys to the hospital’s patients. Every year, Miss Alabama serves as its grand marshal.

“This year, we are excited that Miss Alabama is our own beautiful Liz Cochran,” Thornburg said.

Principal Dana Payne is proud of her school’s outreach to kids in need.

“Last year, our students donated over 1,200 stuffed animals to Children’s Hospital,” Payne said.

In addition to donating countless stuffed animals, last year Thornburg’s HOG group also presented Children’s Hospital with a check for $26,000 to help with needed supplies and activities for the hospital’s playroom for patients and their siblings.

My nephew, Robert Hayes, spent time in Children’s Hospital after his appendix burst in 2006. During those tough days as he began to heal, his family spent time with him in the playroom. Robert’s mom, Joni Hayes, said, “It was nice getting out of that hospital room and pretending to have a normal life for just a little while.”

Life is back to normal for Hayes who is now a healthy, athletic eighth–grader at Riverchase Middle School.

How nice to know that the HOGS are helping more children pass the time pleasantly as they heal at Children’s Hospital.

Harley Davidson donates the entire purchase price of its own brand of stuffed animals available at Pelham’s Heart of Dixie Harley dealership for $10 to $20. The company also gives matching funds donations to the hospital.

“Being the student council advisor at Valley Intermediate gives me the opportunity to show students that together we truly do make a difference,” Thornburg said.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.