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Ride to Provide nets $13,600; more than 250 bike 63 miles

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By Mark Scohier

A convoy of about 250 motorcycles of every make, model and year snaked its way along about 63 miles of scenic Levy County highways and back roads Saturday as part of the fifth annual Ride to Provide.

The ride, led by a patrol car from the Levy County Sheriff’s Office, started at Bronson High School and ended in Otter Creek on the campus of the Levy Association for Retarded Citizens.  Members of the local law enforcement community organized the annual event, which helps fund LARC, in 2006.

This year’s event, through donations, raffles and food sales after the ride, raised $13,600 for the organization, according to Lt. Sean Mullins of the Levy County Sheriff’s Office.

Mullins, who was at the head of the pack of the steel-horsed cowboys and cowgirls Saturday, said, “The ride was excellent.  We had a good turnout and great weather.”

Betty Walker, executive director of LARC, said rain prevented a lot of riders from participating last year.

“We had about half this amount,” she said pointing to the throngs of wind-beaten motorcycle riders in line for plates of barbecue and glasses of sweet tea. “This was a good day.  I didn’t expect this many people.”

And though the event has happened for several years, Walker said budget cuts have made this year’s event especially critical in helping to keep LARC’s doors open.

“As of this year, we lost about $60,000 to $70,000 in revenue.  When you cut into revenue like that, it’s a big deal.  Without the help of the community, we would not be around.”

Walker said LARC usually gets anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 a year in money or in-kind donations from the community.  Ride to Provide is the single biggest contributing event for the organization.

“These people here today, they help fund us, and that’s very, very important.”

Robert Gardner, of Chiefland, rode Saturday and said he did it “just to help. I think everybody deserves help.”

Gardner said this was his second year participating, the first being in 2007.

“It’s a lot bigger now than it was then.”

According to Walker, there are about 19,000 people in Florida on waiting lists to receive services from places such as LARC.  What does LARC do?  According to the Ride to Provide Web site, LARC strives to empower the mentally disabled.

The organization helps the mentally disabled with adult basic education, daily living skills and finding work in the community.  LARC also lends support to the mentally disabled who live by themselves.

For more information on LARC or Ride to Provide, log on to www.ridetoprovide.net.