Hollywood might like to portray motorcycle riders as the outlaws of the road; gruff, mean, long-haired characters sporting tattoos on their bodies and chains from their pant loops, traveling in clubs, and riding wildly through streets and terrorizing townsfolk.
But in real life? Well, a lot of riders might have tattoos. Many of them might have some chains hanging from their waists. More than a few might be pretty gruff and even have long hair.
However, Cody Watters of Gardner, Kansas, a soon-to-be 14-year-old eighth-grader at Wheatridge Middle School, does not have any tattoos (none visible to the naked eye, anyway). His hair is a tad longer than a crew cut, and the only chain in his pocket is a key chain.
Mean? Not even close.
But Watters is a motorcycle rider. He rides dirt bikes and plans to get his own street cycle when he turns 16. He comes from a motorcycle-riding family where his mom, Anita, rides a Yamaha V-Star 1100, and his dad, Paul, rides a Yamaha Venture.
The family belongs to the Kansas City Star Riders Chapter 227, which is a Kansas-Missouri area club for Yamaha riders. Paul is Sheperd/Sergeant of Arms for the club. The club president is Dan Wade of Spring Hill.
They like to help people and have adopted the annual Bikers For Babies® Ride as one of its main fund-raisers of the year. Money from the ride supports the March of Dimes’ mission to solve problems of prematurity, birth defects, and low birth weight.
Last year 5,178 bikers participated and raised $376,843, more than any other city in the country. Of that amount, the Kansas City Star Riders raised $6,700. Paul Watters raised $1,000 and Cody raised nearly $600 by putting together a one-week fund-raising drive at Wheatridge.
'This is something he did last year,' Wheatridge principal Tim Brady said. 'He’s a real good student, and a kid who cares and is passionate, and he did it all himself. And he did it again this year.'
Cody, who plays in the hand chimes choir at Wheatridge and also plays for a team in the Gardner-Edgerton Soccer Club, said during one of the riding club’s meetings two years ago that members were talking about ways to raise money for Bikers For Babies.
'I told them that we have fund-raisers at our school all the time, and then I asked Mr. Brady if I could do a fund-raiser for this,' Cody said. 'He said OK, and I just went from there.'
He explained the fund-raiser during the school’s morning announcements. Collection jars were placed in all the home rooms. The home room that collected the most money earned a pizza party.
'It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing last year, and it kind of surprised everyone because they didn’t have any warning we were going to do this, but we raised nearly $600,' Cody said. 'This year, I hope we can raise more. People had advanced warning and knew it was coming up; we also had flyers posted.”
'Last year, in Mr. Logan’s class, I saw one bill and thought it was a $10. But when I got home and started counting the money, I unfolded the bill, and it was a $100. That was pretty exciting.'
Right now, Cody rides as a passenger, either with his mom or dad. He went on the Bikers For Babies Ride last year and since his dad raised $1,000, they were able to ride a 'Victory Lap' around the track at the Kansas Speedway.
'That was cool,' Cody said. 'We also got to do that at Indianapolis.'
So which motorcycle does he like best when riding with his parents?
'I can’t comment on that,' he said. 'I do, but I don’t want to say. But when I turn 16, and after I take the rider safety course, I want to get a Yamaha R6.'
You can bet he won’t be terrorizing the townsfolk, but will most likely still be raising money to help March of Dimes save the lives of babies.
Story and photos by Chuck Kurtz