Dozens of motorcycles lined the entrance to Walmart on Saturday as the American Iron Riders hosted their annual back-to-school shopping event for area children. This year, the nonprofit was able to give 37 children $100 a piece to purchase the clothing and supplies they will need for the upcoming school year. In addition to their new items, each child also went home with a free pretzel and lemonade courtesy of Auntie Anne’s who joined in the day’s generosity.
“The best part of the whole day is seeing the kids smile,” President Mike Watkins said. “When they get to the register to checkout and you see all the things they’ve picked out, they usually have a big smile on their face.”
The number of children the American Iron Riders are able to assist varies from year to year, but that number is steadily growing.
“We vary with how many kids according to how much money we’ve raised throughout the year,” Watkins said. “These last two years we’ve been able to take more than we ever have before. The Lord has blessed us, and we’ve gained more support from fellow riders and everyone else, so we’ve been able to help more people.”
In addition to this event, the organization also hosts an annual Christmas shopping spree for children along with cookouts for the veterans living at the Veterans Center. Watkins went on to explain how all of this has evolved over time.
“We started out just with our Christmas shopping, then we were blessed to add this,” Watkins said. “Since then we’ve been blessed even more, so we added the cookouts at the Veterans Center.” The blessings come primarily from the funds collected during their annual poker run where motorcyclists from across the region come together to ride and raise money.
When they aren’t directly helping children and veterans, the group likes to ride as much as possible. But even then they are frequently riding with a purpose.
“We have lots of other people that come participate in our poker run to raise money for this, so we participate in others that do things as well,” Watkins said. “The DFW Riders have a poker run, and there’s the Robby Bush Memorial Poker run for the American Cancer Society. So we go participate in those to help them out. We have fun getting to ride, and we help them out so it’s a win-win.”