By Kevin M. Smith
Killeen Daily Herald
Riding motorcycles and feeding children, that's what one new group in Central Texas does. Last month, the official charter was signed for STAR Touring and Riding Association Killeen-Fort Hood Chapter No. 426.
While the official charter signing was recent, two motorcycle enthusiasts have been building the organization for about a year.
"Our mission is to have fun on motorcycles," said Dave Willoughby, STAR area coordinator.
Rick Sanders, road captain, heard about the international club while working at Texas Motor Sports, Killeen's local Yamaha dealer. The organization was formed in 1996 as a family riding organization as the official riding organization of Star Motorcycles, according to the group's Web site.
As a Yamaha dealer employee, however, Sanders could not start the organization. He told a friend, David Bluff, about it a year ago. Bluff started the groundwork, but died last May.
"It just kind of got thrown into my hands with Rick's help," Willoughby said.
The first meeting was in July, and interest quickly grew.
"In the space of four months, we went from our meeting of 12 members ... and Oct. 27 we signed 29 members," Willoughby said. "It exceeded our expectations."
The purpose of the group is to enjoy motorcycle riding and promote a positive image as motorcycle riders.
"This is a family-oriented organization," Willoughby said.
He said the group hopes to break the negative stereotypes of bikers.
"Everybody in a leather jacket and on a motorcycle are bad guys," Willoughby said is the stereotype.
But the culture of bikers has changed since the 1960s and 1970s.
"You're judging the book by its cover," Sanders said.
Willoughby and Sanders said many riders today are business professionals including doctors and lawyers.
"Motorcycling has changed, it has evolved," Willoughby said.
STAR also promotes safety.
"We work within the letter of the law," Willoughby said, noting drinking and riding is prohibited. "When we leave with 29 people, we want to come home with 29 people."
The group has another mission: charity. Each chapter is required to select a charity to focus on Feed the Children international charity organization.
Now that the chapter is officially a nonprofit organization, members are looking for events to raise money this holiday season and throughout the year.
While the group was formed for Yamaha riders, any brand of bike is welcome.
"Unless someone does something that is blatantly unsafe, there's no reason they shouldn't get voted in," Willoughby said.
Contact Kevin M. Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7550