Wheels of Love - Southlake Biker's Drive to Help Others
Spokes4Hope co-founder Kevin Howell
According to data from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, there were more than 39,000 confirmed cases of child abuse across Texas in 2011. Across the United States child abuse is reported once every ten seconds. These are the children that speak to Kevin Howell’s heart telling him to continue to brighten the lives of children through his foundation, Spokes4Hope.
Spokes4Hope’s annual Southlake DPS and Keller PD Motorcycle Rodeo is coming this Saturday, November 10th and will be held at Cabela’s in Fort Worth. Yet it all started on a picture perfect day in 2006 when Kevin Howell climbed on his motorcycle and set out to enjoy a gorgeous day on the road. Riding down Kimball Avenue he saw Southlake Motorcycle officer Alton Wells and pulled over to chat. As the two caught up the officer revealed his longtime partner on the force and fellow motorcycle policeman, Robert Hodges, was suffering from brain cancer. Moved by the story and the fact that Robert had a young son, Kevin wrote a check thus starting to help build a fund for his friend’s family. In keeping with their combined passion for motorcycling Alton and Kevin put together a ride that would not only raise money for the family’s mounting medical bills but also help set up a trust fund for Robert’s son.
The event was a success and the experience helped Kevin realize his personal drive to help children could start right from the seat of his own beloved motorcycle. So, along with Officer Wells, Howell fittingly co-founded Spokes4Hope- a local grass roots organization with the simple goal to make children’s lives better.
“For me a motorcycle represents freedom,” explained Kevin, “The same freedom a bicycle brings to a young child. I want to bring that joy and freedom to children who need some inspiration.”
There is no better time to give an inspiring gift than over the holidays. For this reason Spokes4Hope works tirelessly to gather and give away brand new bicycles to abused children during the Christmas season. Spokes4Hope believes bicycles give kids some relief from the stresses of everyday life. By holding motorcycle rallies and various other special events, they raises funds to purchase bikes and helmets while working with advocacy centers and other non-profits to give the bikes away.
Kevin sums it up best, “It really inspires kids to know someone thought enough of them to give them a bike.”
What all seems so clearly evident for Kevin today was unexpectedly found years ago when Craig Ludwig, a friend and former NHL hockey player asked him to ride along to a hockey camp for kids from the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County. The center in Collin County is just one of many advocacy organizations across Texas and across the country dedicated to providing justice and healing for children who have experienced the trauma of abuse and neglect.
After beginning with the Collin County center, Kevin and Spokes4Hope brought their charitable giving to Denton County and now he is ramping up to work with the statewide Child Advocacy Centers of Texas, (CACTX) located in Austin. Kevin wants to expand Spokes4Hope’s reach across the largest state in the country and the one his family has called home for generations.
A fifth generation native Texan, Kevin Howell grew up in Colleyville where his grandparents moved in 1947. His mother was a member of Grapevine High School’s graduating class of 1956 and Kevin and his wife of 26 years, Gayla, have been residents of Southlake for the last 16 years. The couple are recent empty nesters after their own daughter Kayla graduated from Carroll in 2010.
With more than 20 years in the technology business, Kevin is Vice President of Sales for EdgeAccess, a company that provides tactical voice and data communications for the U.S. government, Homeland Security, and numerous fire and police departments. Currently the company is marketing a new product keeping Kevin busy at work and in his charitable organization.
Every year, since that first holiday season, Spokes4Hope has been increasing the number of bikes given away. “We’re so blessed to give to these kids,” Kevin said. So far the organization has given away several thousand bikes but Kevin has set a lofty goal to continue giving until they reach all the kids going through these hardships. “Not only are the kids fitted for a bike that is the proper size for them, we include a bike helmet to promote safe riding,” Kevin explained.
Much of the organization’s funding comes through donations either from individuals or corporations like Bank of the West and Sam Pack Ford. Additional funds are raised through motorcycle rodeos hosted by Spokes4Hope each year around the area. Kevin said, “God is good. We constantly wonder where we’re going to get the money needed each year and then it always happens.”
As the charity grew other corporations stepped in to help. Tri Dal Ltd., a local Southlake based construction site utilities and excavation contractor, partnered with Kevin offering the use of one of their trailers to deliver a large number of completed bikes to a giveaway site. Paul Gregory, Trucking Manager at Tri Dal is now a Director of Spokes4Hope and President of Tri Dal, Rick Muller graciously donates a full size trailer to the charity to aid them in their work.
Last year, working with Samantha Golden and the single parents group at Gateway church, Spokes4Hope held a bike-building event and then invited everyone to attend a motorcycle rodeo. As is Kevin’s wish, every child in attendance at the rodeo was given their own bike. Past events have also taken place at Johnson Elementary and Old Union Elementary where hundreds of bikes were assembled by little Dragons to distribute during the holiday season.
This year’s rodeo ride will begin at Adam Smith’s Texas Harley in Bedford as riders from across the area join together, and ride in mass to Cabela’s. Kevin mentions, “We’ve had our rodeo at other places, but this will be the second year at Cabela’s and we love it there. Cabela’s wants us there so that will be our home, it’s a great venue and we’re looking forward to a long partnership.” After a rendition of the national anthem by one of the children, rodeo goers will enjoy food, fun, and experience Mr. and Mrs. Santa arriving in a helicopter courtesy of the Southlake DPS.
It’s all about the kids for Kevin. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s all worth it, “ he declared. “You can enjoy Christmas in many ways, but there’s nothing better than giving to a kid. Every kid deserves a Christmas.”
Don't miss the upcoming Spokes4Hope Motorcycle Rodeo on November 10, 2012.