Alan Beattie won a 2006 Honda Rebel motorcycle. Vicki and Lou Harding earned a couple of top-notch letterman jackets for raising more than $3,000 and being the top fund-raisers. Dell’s Cycles, Blue Springs, Missouri, was recognized as the top dealer contributor with more than $9,000. And just more than 200 motorcyclists were treated to a police escort on a 50-mile ride from Overland Park to Olathe, through Gardner, and back to Johnson County Community College in Overland Park.
But the real winners of the Third Annual Ride for Kids event were the nine youngsters, ranging in ages 5 through 12, for whom this ride benefited. The nine all have two things in common: They love motorcycles and they all have or have had brain tumors.
That’s what the Ride for Kids event is about—raising funds to find ways to improve treatment and eventually a cure for pediatric brain tumors. The event in Overland Park was just one of thirty-seven Ride for Kids fundraisers that take place in 37 states. Proceeds go to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
And the folks from the metropolitan Kansas City area didn’t do too badly. By the time the event was coming to a close, it was announced the bikers had helped raise $34,269.
“I just want to tell all the bikers thank you for doing this,” said Ben, 12, towards the end of the day. Each of the nine youngsters was featured on stage and was asked various questions about what grade they were in and the things they enjoy doing. “It means a lot to us and to other kids in what you do,” he told the bikers. “I really had fun riding on the motorcycle, and the money that was raised is going to help a lot of kids.” It was enough to make a grown biker, or two, wipe away a tear.
Kenny Farmer from Shawnee Cycle Plaza suggested the route and Darren Marshall, a senior support analyst with Johnson County Community College at Westpark pre-ran the course and coordinated the police escort and police roadblocks at busy intersections along the way. Police departments involved were from Overland Park, Olathe, Gardner, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. “They did a super, super job,” Marshall said. “They were on top of things from beginning to end, and I can’t say enough about them and the job they did, and I can’t thank them enough for helping us to keep all the bikers safe.”
The only bump in the road, so to speak, came mid-way through the ride, when the entire group, which stretched out for more than a mile, was stopped by a train. “There’s not much you can do about that,” Marshall said. “You can’t stop a train!”
Sponsors provided donuts, coffee, juice, and water in the morning and lunch box sandwiches with water and soda at noon after the ride. “The college also really got behind this,” Marshall said. “Not only by making the facility available for the event, but they also provided condiments and napkins and packed the lunches in boxes and stored them prior to the ride.” Volunteers helped fit the nine youngsters with the right-sized helmets and coordinated getting them on “escort” motorcycles. Some rode on the back of the motorcycles, some rode in sidecars, and one road in a Dune Buggy.
“This was great weather for the ride,” Marshall said. And that was an understatement. The first year of the event, it was interrupted by a tornado warning. Last year, bikers rode in the rain. “I don’t think it could get worse, so all it could do was get better,” Marshall said, then laughed.
Also on hand for the ride was George Young, service quality engineer for the Harley-Davidson plant in Kansas City, Missouri. He and a few other members of the Employee Riders Association (ERA) came to support the fundraising effort. “We (the ERA) have been pretty busy this summer,” Young said. “Word is getting around about what we do, and we are starting to get a lot of organizations asking us for our support. “We have several riders taking part and giving money to other events today.”
Ride for Kids began in 1984 in Atlanta, Georgia by Mike Traynor, a newspaper executive and motorcyclist. He had a friend whose child was stricken with a brain tumor. After watching the tragic deaths of many children, Traynor solicited the support of motorcyclists throughout America in raising money and awareness for needed research in battling brain tumors in children. Brain tumors in children must be dealt with much differently than tumors in adults. The first event was in Atlanta. Then in Chicago in 1989. Traynor left his career in 1992 and began devoting full-time to raising money to battle pediatric brain tumors.
American Honda Motor Company, along with dealers and other motorcycle industry companies, help bring attention and money to the event. The event expanded and now is the largest non-profit source of funding for pediatric brain tumor research outside of the federal government.
For more information about the Ride for Kids program, go to www.rideforkids.org.
By Chuck Kurtz