Bikers Who Care is an organization of Motorcycle enthusiasts dedicated to supporting The Dream Factory of Clarksville, TN by fully sponsoring Camp Rainbow – a Summer Camp for Seriously Ill Children.
Our mission began in 1982 with the very first Leslie W. Watson Memorial Toy Run. The Toy Run began as a way to show respect for Watson’s memory and the kindness he showed others. All participants would buy a toy and donate it to the Fire Department for their Christmas toy drive. The first year, about one hundred motorcycles showed up. After the Toy Run, the riders held a party. They soon realized that if they made the party a part of the Toy Run they could raise money which could be donated to a worthy cause — just as ole Les would have done.
It just so happened that the Dream Factory had a newly formed chapter in Clarksville. The Dream Factory, a non-profit organization, was formed to raise money to help children challenged by physical deformity or serious illness. Throughout each year, working closely with Doctors and Nurses all over Middle Tennessee, they bring joy to the lives of these kids by making one Dream come true for each one of them.
The Granddaddy of all the Dreams is Camp Rainbow. This is a week-long summer adventure held at Land Between the Lakes each June. It’s a place where the children can come and be just children for one week out of each year. A week filled with fun and games, fishing, swimming and arts & crafts. Camp Rainbow is fully staffed by volunteers, at least one counselor for each child, including a full Medical Staff. Dream Factory has to pick up the tab for rental of the facilities, which consist of two dormitories, and Arts & Crafts center, swimming pool, boat dock and, of course, the ever popular Cafeteria.
The Toy Run participants and the Dream Factory agreed to work together to develop the financial resources to cover this event and a great relationship was born — Bikers Who Care was formed specifically to raise money for Camp Rainbow.
The first contribution BWC made to the Dream Factory consisted of several hundred dollars. Each year since, BWC has raised successively greater amounts of money. In the past 20 years, more than $300,000 has been donated by BWC to Dream Factory for Camp Rainbow. Last year alone BWC raised the entire $45,000 needed to finance the camp.
There is a lot of work that goes into putting on a successful Toy Run Party, but BWC has been up to the challenge each and every time. The Party itself might be considered reward enough for all of the hard work. A weekend long gathering of motorcyclists coming together from all over for field events, a ride-in bike show, live bands, the wet T-shirt contest and lots of free brew.
But for many of those involved, the real reward consists of the annual trip to Camp Rainbow. On the Thursday of camp week, BWC members take a carnival to Camp Rainbow and set it up for the children, complete with moon walk, games, dunking booth, cotton candy and snow cones. The members and friends of BWC ride their bikes to camp and hang out with the children all afternoon. They all enjoy the carnival together, followed by dinner with the kids, and topped off with the annual Talent Show put on by the children and counselors of Camp Rainbow. This evening of mingling together has, over the years, become the overall favorite activity of most of the children at camp. It’s a moving experience to see the love that these children have for BWC members.
It has taken quite some time for these “Bikers” to gain positive acceptance in the community. Over the years, they have shown the people of Middle Tennessee that, regardless of ‘first impressions’, there are some big hearts lurking under those tattoos and leathers. They have shown that you can have a good time while helping do very important work.
The annual Watson Memorial Toy Run is the largest motorcycle toy run in Tennessee. The Toy Run is staged in cooperation with the Clarksville Police Department. Our 20th Annual Event was held in 2001 and some 3,000 bikes showed up for the run. In an official proclamation Mayor Piper declared the week before the Toy Run “Bike Week Clarksville”.