About 70 motorcycles and more than 100 riders cruised into the driveway of the Helping Hands residence on Saturday – carrying dozens of bags full of school supplies.


Every year the Dixie Thunder Aiken ABATE club sponsors a Back to School Run. The riders will return at Christmas with presents after a toy run. They started the ride at the Clearwater Shopping Center and traveled around the Valley before heading to the shelter.


“Helping Hands is so special,” said a project coordinator, Steve Steiner of New Ellenton. “We just want to do this for kids who need help. With the school supplies, we can give them a little bit of hope.”


For many years, Helping Hands has provided a facility for children and teenagers who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. Many organizations contribute to the shelter. Rysheeka Bush, a Helping Hands executive, is grateful to all of them.


“Our kids still need supplies throughout the year,” she said.


Chris and Eileen Nicholas always welcome the chance to participate in charity rides. They will return for the toy run in a few months.


“I like to spoil the kids and bring them candy,” Eileen admitted with a smile.


Mike Leahey bought a 2008 Harley as his first bike that year. He appreciates such clubs as Dixie Thunder ABATE.


“There's so much camaraderie,” he said. “It's like family. The bikers are some of the best people I've met.”


David Edle started riding about three years ago and was joined by his son, Caleb, 9, for the Back to School Run.


“I've loved every minute of it,” Edle said. “We've done this event for the last two years. We've been riding mostly around here, but we're planning to go to the mountains soon.”


Beyond the gifts, the Helping Hands kids like seeing the cyclists, Bush said.


“It's very exciting for them, and they get to see that somebody cares about them,” she said.


Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.