Editor’s note: This story is part of our “50 Stories of People Helping People” series. As we celebrate Penske’s 50th anniversary in 2019, we are spotlighting associates every Friday who are making a difference in their communities.
From Monday to Friday, you’ll find Freddy Harlow working as an operations supervisor for Penske Logistics in Keller, Texas.
Whether he’s conducting new driver orientation sessions or assisting drivers with any safety concerns, Harlow says he’s lucky to have a career that enables him to make an impact on others’ lives daily. But, his impact reaches far past business hours in a way few people may know about.
For 10 years, Harlow (below) has been a member of the Guardians of the Children (GOC), a motorcycle rider organization that’s dedicated to protecting the victims of child abuse while advocating to provide strength and stability to families in crisis, according to the group’s website. They partner with victim assistance groups and children advocacy agencies to raise awareness of the prevalence of child abuse. GOC has chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada, with Harlow’s group covering north Texas.
He says that when child abuse survivors and their families contact GOC for support, he and the riders will take them under their wings.
“We adopt – so to speak – the kids into our organization,” said Harlow. “The riders are a bunch of men and women who really care about making a difference and want the children to know they’re not alone during this difficult time. Wherever we're needed, it doesn't matter how far, we're there to help.”
After joining as Little Guardians, each child is given a leather vest to wear, a patch and a road name – or nickname. Some popular road names in Harlow’s chapter are Bear, Red and Starfish, but his favorite name may be the one he was given.
“They call me Wingnut,” he said with a chuckle. “When I first showed up, I had a Gold Wing nut on my vest, and I drive a Gold Wing motorcycle. People put two and two together, and it stuck.”
This cause is close to Harlow’s heart. He enjoys helping others, and as a motorcycle rider, he thought that GOC was the perfect fit for him.
The group organizes picnics, outings and other activities to get all of the kids together. And frequently, the kids ask Harlow and his fellow GOC riders for rides on their motorcycles down the street.
Pictured is the Guardians of the Children patch on Harlow's leather vest.
One of the activities the kids really enjoy is the giant birthday celebration the chapter throws for them in the summer. They’ll have a cookout with a big birthday cake and take the kids fishing and swimming, not to mention each kid gets a present, making it a day that brings smiles stretching from ear to ear. And, the best part: The families don’t have to pay a dime.
To help pay for some of the events, Harlow and his friends formed a small country-western band called the Steel Horses and perform around Texas.
“We donate all of the money we make to Guardians of the Children,” he said.
Occasionally, somebody will ask him why he still volunteers after all these years. Harlow responds:
“We become one big family. These kids grow up and still make us a part of their lives. They invite us to their graduations. They make as much of a difference in my life as I’ve made in theirs.
“Many of these families have gone through difficult times, and it’s not enough to say you’re against something, unless you’re willing to do something about it,” said Harlow.
By Chris Abruzzo