Motorcycles may not be ideally suited for package delivery, but they are not a bad vehicle for delighting children who are in bad need of delight. And when these members of the Cross and Crown Riders rumbled up to the homes of these children to hand out the parcels, it was hard to tell which person – the child or the adult – who was getting the gift.
“It’s heartwarming,” said Greg Harper, one of the group’s leaders. “It’ll really get you because the kids light up so much.”
The members called this a “toy run,” and it was a typical outing for this group of leather-wearing Believers. As the local chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, they combine the love they have for their machines with their love of God, and regularly head out on the highway to serve any mission that might come their way.
“We’ll help run events, we’ll work the gates and help work parking at events,” said Harper. “We’ll do whatever we can to help and to show people that you can get out and serve the Lord and still be a part of the motorcycle community.”
The Christmas presents that the club delivered on this day were on behalf of Angel Tree, an organization that helps children of prison inmates have a better holiday. The Cross and Crown Riders met in a restaurant parking lot to pick up bags of gifts, then fanned out in various directions across town to personally deliver toys that had been specially selected for the children.
According to the Angel Tree website, the program was started in 1982 by Mary Kay Beard, who – before then at least – was no angel. A safecracker, bank robber and one of the FBI’s Most Wanted, she was arrested on 11 federal indictments in 1972 and sentenced to 21 years, winding up in Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for Women.
Inside, facing the consequences of her acts, she became a Christian and reordered her life. After being paroled, Beard went to college and earned degrees in education and counseling. Her new skills, religious devotion and desire to minister to inmates led her to accept the post of Alabama Area Director for Prison Fellowship and it was in that role that she created the Angel Tree program.
The gifts are collected by churches and the network sends out the names of children sent in by prison inmates. In a complicated system worthy of Santa’s workshop, the gifts and names are matched together and sent out in bags which have been tagged with coded references to ensure proper delivery. That is where the Cross and Crown Riders come into the picture.
“We’re just the end part (of the process),” Harper said. “But we get to do the most fun part.”
Harper reported that after getting their gifts – one “practical” gift like clothing and a “fun” toy – the kids got a chance to clamber over the motorcycles and “beep the horns.”
“It was a real blessing to us,” he said. “Lots of smiles, lots of happiness and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Cross and Crown Riders is the 1,121st chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA), a nationwide fellowship and ministry program that, despite its name, is not exclusively for motorcycle riders. As the local chapter, Harper and his friends will help out with any local charity or cause.
Harper says the group participated in fundraising events for Aimee Copeland, as well for other events, including Bikers Battling Breast Cancer. They also get involved at Christmastime with other “toy runs” for such charities as Toys for Tots.
The chapter began about five years ago when Harper and some other riders who had been attending an affiliated chapter in Newnan decided to start one closer to home. The group has been flourishing since receiving its charter from the national organization, and draws members from across the West Georgia community.
There is no requirement to be a rider to be a rider, or even to have a specific type of bike, said Harper, who himself rides a Harley Davidson. Others ride Yamahas, Hondas and Kawasakis, while other members have a flair for more exotic rides, such as the one who speeds around on a Ducati Monster and another who cruises the highway on a Suzuki Bourgman.
“We’ve got a little bit of everybody,” Harper said. “That’s part of it. If you love the Lord and love to ride — and love to get out and serve and help — CMA is the place to be. It’s more than just a ‘ride & eat’ club, it’s working for the Lord and having fun doing it.
“We hope that people get to see that being a Christian doesn’t mean that you have to stay at home and stay away from everything.”