SHEATOWN —The rumble of motorcycles entering the grounds of Holy Child Grove Sunday didn’t drown out the strong, soulful voice of 16-year-old songstress, Morgan Elmy.
Hundreds of bikes rolled into the parking lot as Elmy and her band performed during the 13th annual Valley with a Heart benefit ride.
Being part of the opening act for the event to raise money for sick children in Luzerne County meant a lot to Elmy, a junior at Crestwood High School.
“It makes me feel great, because it’s a great cause,” she said.
The event originally began 13 years ago out of a need to help 10-year-old Elise Harrison, who was battling cancer. A group of friends “who happen to ride motorcycles,” put that first benefit ride together and have continued organizing the bike runs as well as other fundraisers every year, said Rick Vietz, a core member of Valley with a Heart, and one of the event’s organizers.
“We saw how it helped our friend’s niece and how much it meant to her, so we decided to keep it going,” said Vietz. “We give out gas cards like crazy, put in a bathroom and bought a handicapped van for a family.”
Proceeds from this year’s event will help the families of one-year-old Isabella Hunsinger of Berwick; two-year-old Michael McCue of Sweet Valley; four-month-old Eva Kilduff of Kingston and one-year-old Ella Rose Powell of Plains. Monies collected will also be used to help other families with seriously ill children, said Vietz.
Rick Temerantz, president of Valley with a Heart, said he expected at least 400 participants in the 60-mile ride. The charity, which is under the auspices of the Luzerne Foundation, has raised roughly $250,000 so far, he added.
Each year, the organization chooses a poster child from the many applications it receives.
“Usually it’s one or two, but this year it’s four,” Temerantz said.
The charity aids families by helping to pay utility bills, mortgages and other expenses and also helps local hospitals by purchasing items such as video games, toys, and other needs for its pediatric wards. “Geisinger needed rocking chairs, so we bought them,” he said.
The event featured 13 live bands performing alternately and two stages, a silent auction, childrens’ games, food and a dunk tank. Charles Pond of Clark Summit said it was his fifth ride with Valley with the Heart. The 51-year-old Gulf War veteran said he usually participates in about 30 charity rides every year.
“I feel it’s a real good thing,” he said. “This is what it’s all about, everybody stepping up to the plate and chipping in to do their part.”