Maurice Shults has seen plenty of people in difficult circumstances during his time with the Newport Police Department. The recent case of a couple of stray dogs mauling 11-year-old Brandon Williams especially hit home.
"I've known Brandon's family for many years. His dad and grandfather used to saw mill lumber for my dad," said Shults.
Williams was flown to UT Medical Center and survived the dog attack, but both of his ears were torn from his head. Williams is now recovering at home.
"When I walked in UT hospital and saw the smile on that young man's face, even though he had been through what he had been through, I knew that I had to do something," said Shults.
Shults decided to utilize his love of motorcycles to raise money for Brandon's family and simultaneously boost awareness to prevent future dog attacks. Shults, his brother and Newport Police detective Lynn Shults, and their friend Jack Baxter organized a benefit ride across the state.
"We'll go from the North Carolina border on I-40 all the way to the Arkansas border in Memphis, then turn around and come back," said Shults. "It is an endurance ride, but it is nothing compared to what Brandon has endured and remained positive."
The roundtrip of 900 miles on the interstate in a single day is symbolic in its connection of borders.
"If we ride from one end of the state to the other, we bring awareness to a statewide problem. The fact that dogs do run at-large and people are victimized by these dogs. We've had a couple of similar attacks by at-large dogs since Brandon was attacked, although they were not hurt as bad," Shults added, "We want to spread the message across the state and help raise funds for Brandon's family."
Shults was clear to point out that he did not believe the mauling was due to the breed of the dogs. One of the dogs involved in the attack was a Rottweiler and the other was a Pit Bull mix.
"I myself was bitten by a German Shepherd as well as a Collie when I was younger, so I know it's not a breed-specific thing. It's just animals running at large, and they begin to pack up, and they will survive," said Shults. "People need to call in if they see animals running at-large. Animal Control can come at any time and help get these animals away so we don't have another child mauled like this."
Shults has promoted his fundraising motorcycle ride on Facebook and solicited donations. Proceeds benefit the Williams family and the Rolling Rescue at the Newport Animal Shelter.
Donations may mailed to Benefit Ride, P.O. Box 128, Newport, TN, 37821. Donations may also be made directly to the Maurice Shults/Benefit Ride account at the National Bank of Tennessee in Newport.
"We've had a good time putting this together and had a lot of friends contribute," said Shults. "People can just drop by the window at the bank and donate money. We've had people mail money in to our post office box. We've had money from as far as Cleveland, TN, so far."