Voice of the Pirates rides for a cause

Jeff Charles hosts an annual motorcycle ride to benefit a scholarship fund in memory of his daughter. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services

The highways of eastern North Carolina will rumble Sept. 17 as nearly 100 motorcycles roll to raise money for a scholarship fund at East Carolina University.

Leading the way on their own Suzuki Boulevard cruiser will be the Voice of the Pirates, Jeff Charles, and his wife, Debby. The ride will benefit the Heather A. Purtee Nursing Scholarship, a fund named for their daughter, who died in a car crash 19 years ago while a nursing student at ECU.

“Right after Heather’s accident, we asked people in the community if they’d be interested in donating to the nursing school as a way to honor her memory,” he said. “It just dawned on me one day let’s use my love of motorcycling as a way to raise money for the school.”

Charles clearly remembers Dec. 10, 1992. His daughter worked in the floral department at the old Harris Supermarket on Tenth Street. She headed out that day in the store van to deliver flowers to Bethel. In a heavy rainstorm, her van collided with a truck on N.C. 11. She died instantly.

“People say the worst thing in your life is to lose a child,” Charles said. “I can certainly vouch for that. It’s always with you, but you learn to move on. It’s always on your heart.”

Nursing student and ECU cheerleader Courtney Evans is the most recent recipient of the Heather A. Purtee Nursing Scholarship.

Nursing student and ECU cheerleader Courtney Evans is the most recent recipient of the Heather A. Purtee Nursing Scholarship.

Nursing leaders praised the work Charles and his wife have put into raising money for the $1,500 annual scholarship, which was first awarded in 1994.

“It is a wonderful way to honor their daughter and provide a scholarship for a nursing student,” said Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the ECU College of Nursing.

Charles is in his 24th year as the Voice of the Pirates and has been riding motorcycles about as long. In 1999, while he was in Charlotte announcing the ECU-West Virginia football game, his Yamaha 1100 drowned during Hurricane Floyd.

He’s had a couple of motorcycles since then, and this summer began hosting “Bike Talk,” a weekly radio show that airs Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. on Pirate Radio 1250 and 930.

The Sept. 17 event will mark the eighth year of the ride. It will be a reverse Texas Hold ’em Poker Run, where participants pick up cards at designated stops and compete to accumulate the best poker hand. Each year, the ride raises approximately $1,500, said Mark Alexander, director of development for the College of Nursing.

On the ride, not everyone sports ECU colors, though they are popular. “There is some, but there are a lot of people who ride in it who aren’t even Pirate fans, who like doing charity rides,” Charles said.

This year’s scholarship recipient, Courtney Evans, wears plenty of purple every football Saturday. Not only is she a senior nursing student but also a Pirate cheerleader and a Greenville native.

Video by Cliff Hollis, ECU News Services
“Between early morning weights, clinical rotations, class time and cheerleading practice, there is little time to work,” said Evans, who hopes to be a pediatric nurse practitioner. “As an ECU cheerleader, I feel honored to represent the ECU Pirates and College of Nursing in all of my endeavors. Just as Heather’s dream was to explore the nursing field, I hope I can make the Purtee family proud as I follow the same dream in my life.”

Specifically, Purtee dreamed of working as a flight nurse on Pitt County Memorial Hospital’s EastCare helicopter.

“We’re using a tragic situation that happened to our daughter to make it a positive situation today,” Charles said. “What it teaches you is there’s an incredible resilience with the human spirit. God and time help you heal.”

Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at Ron Ayers Motorsports in Greenville. The ride will begin at 10 a.m. Stops will be at Frank’s Pizza in Washington, East Carolina Trophy in Winterville, Hastings Ford, U.B.E. and Pirate Radio in Greenville. The poker run ends at Ron Ayers Motorsports. Lunch will be served at noon.

“It’s a two-hour deal. It doesn’t take up everybody’s day,” Charles said. “It’s a great, great way to go out with your friends.”

Cost is $10 for single riders and $20 for motorcycles with a passenger. Vendor displays and a 50/25/25 raffle will be held. For more information, call Ron Ayers Motorsports at 252-758-3084.

Event sponsors are Pepsi, Domino’s, Logan’s Roadhouse, Pip Printing, East Carolina Trophies and Signs, Krispy Kreme and Marketing Matters.

To make a contribution to the nursing scholarship, call Alexander at 252-744-2238.

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