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story.lead_photo.caption Bill Martin of El Paso, co-founder of Arkansas Bikers for Children, said the organization will take pocket change or any amount of donations people want to give. He said 100 percent of all proceeds go to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. First Electric Cooperative in Jacksonville recently gave the organization $1,000. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

Bill Martin of El Paso, chairman and co-founder of Arkansas Bikers for Children, said there’s no doubt the organization has helped save children’s lives with the money it has raised since 2012 for Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

“All in all, we have raised around $400,000 in seven years. We’ve saved lives on the way,” Martin said, because of the equipment the money helped to purchase.

“We’ve bought all kinds of stuff,” he said. “We saved six lives in 2015 with a temperature-management-control system. When I asked them what they wanted, they threw that at me. We raised enough to buy one and pay for almost half of another one.”

He said the equipment brings a high fever down to normal or raises body temperature for a patient with hypothermia.

“In ’16, we bought five ventilators, at a cost of $12,000 apiece, in five different sizes, including neonatal,” he said, adding that he was told by hospital officials that at least two lives were saved with that equipment.

This year, Arkansas Bikers for Children bought an Isolette transporter for the hospital’s helicopter, Martin said.

“They put little bitty babies in it. It’s an incubator. It’s sterile, and once they put [the babies] in there and put a lid on it, it’s just like they’re in the hospital,” he said.

Martin said he wrote a check in September for $61,247.68 to pay for the Isolette.

The group’s proceeds come from several fundraisers, including a golf tournament in April at Cypress Creek at Greystone Country Club in Cabot; a bass tournament in June on the Arkansas River in Little Rock; a trap shoot at the skeet shoot in Jacksonville; and a golf tournament in July at Hickory Creek in Jacksonville.

“We’ve got a few small things we’re going to do,” Martin said, including selling chances to win a laptop at an antique show in November at the Conway Expo Center.

The organization received $1,000 in October from First Electric Cooperative in Jacksonville through its Operation Round-Up program. Members who enroll in Operation Round-Up volunteer to have their electric bills rounded up to the next even dollar amount each month, and the proceeds are donated to service organizations and for scholarships for high school seniors.

According to a press release from the cooperative, $18,000 was awarded to 16 local organizations.

Martin said the group has received proceeds from First Electric Cooperative every year except one since Arkansas Bikers for Children was founded.

“With our group, not one red dime is spent on administrative costs,” he said. “If we have to buy anything, it comes out of our own pockets.

“Most of our sponsors [give] $500 or $1,000. If all you’ve got is pocket change, I’ll take pocket change,” Martin said. “I’ve had people give me change. I’ve had people give me a dollar or two because that’s what they had on them.”

Martin will be 76 on Dec. 6 — and he’s still riding.

“I’ve been a biker since 1960, I guess. I just bought me a new Indian bike in the spring of this year.”

He retired from Mid-America Pipeline, where he said he did whatever was needed.

“I drove a truck, I sandblasted, I painted, and I worked on a pipeline,” Martin said.

He co-founded the Arkansas Bikers for Children group with several other friends.

“We are a motorcycle organization, but it’s almost like a professional job, a six-day-a-week job for me.,” Martin said. “I give Sunday to the Lord. I ought to give seven days a week, but I give six days to Children’s Hospital.”

Tom Nolting, 51, co-chairman of Arkansas Bikers for Children, said he’s been riding a motorcycle his “whole life.”

Nolting said helping Arkansas Children’s Hospital is close to his heart because his son has been treated there. He and his wife adopted the now-15-year-old as an infant, and he is autistic and was born with Williams syndrome.

“He spends a lot of time at Children’s Hospital,” Nolting said. “The doctors, when he was that age, said he’d probably never walk. They were partly right. He went from crawling to running by about age 4. He’s doing very well right now. He’s growing and developing very nicely.”

Nolting said his son doesn’t enjoy the sound of the motorcycle.

“So I don’t ride it much anymore,” Nolting said.

Nolting said he got involved with Arkansas Bikers for Children when a friend introduced him to the group. Nolting was president of the Cabot Civitan Club at the time and invited a representative of the bikers group to speak.

“A year later, they pulled me away from the Cabot Civitan Club, and I joined [the bikers] club,” Nolting said. “Now I’m co-chairman of that group.”

He said the goal is “to buy lifesaving equipment [for Children’s] every year.” He said he likes the “combination of giving back and 100 percent of everything we raise goes back. We don’t waste money on administrative costs; we pay all that.

“That’s one of the interesting things about Children’s Hospital here in Arkansas — you can’t swing a dead cat and not find someone who hasn’t been affected by Children’s one way or another. In Arkansas, you know somebody or were personally helped out by what’s going on at Children’s Hospital.”

Members of the group ride together to Little Rock each September to present a check to the hospital.

Nolting said the organization would like more people from the Conway area to join the group and help with its mission.

“One of the things we’re trying to promote — on our website, abcarkansas.com — people have the ability to go on Paypal and do monthly donations,” he said. “There’s no fee for it. If you send us $5 a month, it comes straight out of your checking account. You don’t have to remember if you’ve paid that.”

Nolting said the group is thankful “for every dollar we get.”

“The Facebook page gets the most traffic, and Instagram has lots of pictures of events that we’ve held,” he said.

Emily Mitchell, development officer for the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation, said the efforts of Arkansas Bikers for Children have made a difference. She said the group has averaged a donation of $60,000-plus the past few years.

“It’s been wonderfully impressive. Their dedication is hard to surpass,” Mitchell said. “Most bikers get ahold of something, and they go full steam ahead — Bill Martin is no exclusion. They’ve been instrumental in purchasing lifesaving equipment, and we are unbelievably grateful for their dedication.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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