Where the rubber meets the road

Meet the biker community fighting breast cancer

The Lucky Turn Around in China Grove, North Carolina, is a hot spot for motorcycle riders, family and friends. Patrons can grab an appetizer, play pool and throw darts. And the pink lemonade is extra special: Buy a glass and the proceeds go toward providing lifesaving mammograms to women in need.

If it stopped there, this would just be another story about a local business giving back to the community it serves. But the Lucky Turn Around takes it one giant step further.

The bar is home to a special group of women who are motorcycle enthusiasts and healthcare advocates. They call themselves Riders Against Cancer (RAC), and, for the past three years, the group has raised money and awareness for breast cancer prevention. Together, RAC has raised more than $50,000 and helped more than 100 women receive mammograms.

The year-round effort was sparked by a conversation Charlene Nolt, co-owner of the Lucky Turn Around, had with five women at the bar. Nolt was due to go in for a mammogram. None of the other women had insurance or had received one. Nolt and co-owner Kristina Hilton knew right away they wanted to do something to fix that, and their passion rubbed off on everyone else.

“Right after that, Charlene started telling all the regulars that came in there ‘We’ve got to do something,’” said Sally Rogers, a Lucky Turn Around customer and RAC committee member. “Before we knew it, we had 25 women.”

The group pulled together what would become their flagship event: Riding for Mammograms, an annual poker run, a growing craze in the biker community, at the Lucky Turn Around and other locations. Word spread quickly, starting with other patrons at the bar.

“We all know people who are motorcyclists,” Nolt said. “So when you reach out to one, you’re basically reaching to them at all, and they all know our cause.”

Riders from all over Rowan and Mecklenburg County got involved. The first year, about 60 motorcycles participated, and the group raised about $16,000.

Despite its fundraising success, the group struggled to find women willing to receive the mammograms. They realized they wanted to take their efforts to the next level. They reached out to Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation, and a partnership was born. Committee members were thrilled when they spoke to Executive Director Rick Parker.

“He was on his vacation, but still took our phone call, and we all stood there and yelled how much money we had already raised,” Nolt said. “And that man was ecstatic.”

The next year, the group partnered with Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation and raised $36,000, including more than $10,000 from an anonymous donor that brought tears to the eyes of the committee.

“It touched our hearts and made us want to push even harder,” Rogers said.

Novant Health was able to use the funds raised to provide dozens of mammograms to women the RAC didn’t know, and cancer was found in three of them.

“At the end of the day, we provided three mammograms for women who may not have had the means or the opportunity to do it,” Rogers said. “And it would have probably turned into a fatal cancer. That’s what makes it worth it for me.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RAC postponed this year’s poker run indefinitely, but donations are still coming in through merchandise and sponsors. The group has also hosted events to educate women on early detection.

“It’s not all about the money,” said Stacey Thomas, another RAC committee member. “We try to get the word out as much as we can.”

All in all, the committee has been floored by the response from the community. 

“We never realized in our lifetimes that so many people would come together and help us with something like this,” Nolt said. “The community has really shocked me in so many ways on how they support us.”

Additionally, RAC has been grateful for the passionate support of Parker and the rest of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Foundation. The foundation has helped with everything from providing guidance on fundraising to sourcing ribbons at the eleventh hour, and the partnership has had its share of fun, as well.

“Rick is so excited,” Thomas said. “He just got a motorcycle earlier this year, and he wants to ride in our next run.”

Today, anyone interested in receiving a mammogram can contact Novant Health or RAC to receive one free of charge.

“You don’t have to do anything but walk in there and get a mammogram, and it’s going to be paid for,” Nolt said. “That’s how important it is that you go get one. You don’t need a doctor. You don’t need money. You don’t need insurance. Just go get a mammogram.”

In the course of their lifetime, about 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer.

You can help us continue to provide mammograms on the house. Join the fight and donate today.

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