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Bikers gather for 15th annual charity ride

 

By Alex Welch
Assistant Editor 

  An act as simple as saving soda can tabs can ultimately turn into thousands of dollars. That’s exactly what one Locust Grove resident decided to do years ago in order to raise money for an organization he holds in high regard, and his initial idea has now grown into 15 years of charitable contributions.

Riders line up in preparation for the start of the 15th Annual Olivia Andrews Tab Run. The ride raises money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of West Georgia, Inc.                                     Photo by Alex Welch

  Arnie Cobb, a member of the Southside Riders Association, founded the Olivia Andrews Tab Run to contribute funds to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of West Georgia, Inc. in Columbus, Ga. The house provided a place for Cobb’s sister and brother-in-law to stay in 1997 while their daughter, Olivia Andrews, was in the hospital after she was prematurely born. To show his appreciation for their help, Cobb developed the idea of a motorcycle ride with his group to raise funds to donate.

  “The motorcycle group was young at the time. We were eager and looking for some other things to do. My wife and I saw the Ronald McDonald House had a pop tab program, and we said we’d like to start saving can tabs and do a ride for the House,” said Cobb. “The first ride was in 1999 and we had 28 people. We rode to Columbus and the group was so impressed with the House, so we decided the next year, let’s invite more people.”

  Fifteen years later, the ride has expanded from one contribution from the Southside Riders into an event that draws support from several different states and groups. Cobb said they’ve had over 1,000 participants some years, and the Tab Run has collected over 40,000 pounds of tabs over its history. One pound of tabs is equal to $1, and along with other donations, the ride has brought in tens of thousands of dollars for the Ronald McDonald House.

  “Every time you turn around that House is doing something for a neighborhood,” said Cobb. “All the money that we raise goes towards helping fund the expenses of the House so they can continue these programs.”

  The Ronald McDonald House in Columbus houses families who have hospitalized children. This helps them avoid incurring major lodging costs. Toni Andrews, Olivia’s mother, said they were fortunate to have a place to stay when her daughter was born.

  “She was one pound, four ounces, and she stayed in the hospital 97 days. We didn’t know about the Ronald McDonald House until we got there, and thank God for them, because we couldn’t afford a hotel almost three hours away from home. It’s an amazing place and needs to be there for everybody,” said Andrews.

 Andrews said her brother saw that the House collected tabs to raise money, and he took that idea and ran with it. This year they celebrated the 15th anni-versary of the Tab Run on Saturday, Sept. 28.

  Starting in the parking lots of the Applebee’s and Longhorn in Griffin, Cobb, the Andrews family, the Southside Riders were joined by other riders and groups to make the nearly 100-mile trip to the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus. The ride traveled over to I-85 from Griffin and made its way south. Riders came from as far as Tupelo, Mississippi, and can tabs were sent in from as far away as Anchorage, Alaska. Cobb said support for the ride continues to grow, and tabs come in from all over.

  “We’ve got people sending them from out of state. We have people who have moved away, and they’ve taken this idea home with them. I’m seeing posts here and there about tab runs in other states,” said Cobb. “We put a challenge out there to everyone to raise tabs and come out and compete with us.”

  Trophies are handed out for the group that collects the most tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. The Southside Riders emerged with the grand champion trophy this year after providing the largest amount of tabs of any group supporting the Columbus location.

  “It was a very successful weekend. We’re just guessing at this moment, but the ride’s probably going to be somewhere between $11,000 to 12,000,” said Cobb.

  The Griffin Police Department and Georgia State Patrol escorted several miles of bikers to Columbus. Applebee’s served breakfast before the ride and gathered $650 to donate to the charity. Groups from seven different states came out to take part in the cause. Cobb said support comes from all over.

  Olivia is now a healthy teenager, and she is always in attendance at the Tab Run.

  “She’s been at it every year, and she just gets tickled. She loves riding a bike now. She’s already wanting to get a motorcycle when she gets to be able to drive,” Andrews said.

  After starting with 28 people riding to Columbus, Cobb and the Southside Riders have created an event that donates thousands of dollars to the Ronald McDonald House every year. With increased support each time around, the Tab Run isn’t hitting the brakes any time soon.

   For more information on the Ronald McDonald House, visit www.rmhcwga.org.

 

 

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