In 2004, Tucker Orton was born 14 weeks early weighing just 19 ounces. His mother, Jennifer, had been diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and possible HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening obstetric condition. Tucker coded immediately after delivery, was revived and rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where his diagnosis was severe prematurity, respiratory distress, and possible sepsis. His care included surfactant therapy, a treatment developed by March of Dimes-funded research, enabling his undeveloped lungs to function. Tucker was finally well enough to go home after 92 days in the NICU. He required oxygen and an apnea monitor for the next two and one half months. During his first six years, he endured four major surgeries. In spite of all he has been through, Tucker has become a healthy, happy, and rambunctious 7-year-old. He and his mom were proud to serve as the 2012 Bikers for Babies ambassador family and during the opening ceremony, had the opportunity to thank those who have supported the event.
Treatments and research made possible by donations to the March of Dimes significantly raise the probability of successful outcomes in cases like Tucker’s. The March of Dimes is a nonprofit organization that helps to fund programs and research to find answers to the problem of premature birth and other infant health issues. March of Dimes advocacy efforts in state and federal governments are making it possible for more parents to get health coverage and care for their babies and children. The organization’s educational programs assist women in recognizing the signs of preterm labor and learning what to do if they experience them. March of Dimes also has NICU Family Support sites at St. Luke’s Hospital, Children’s Mercy Hospital, and Stormont Vail in Topeka. This program provides comfort, support, and education to families who are experiencing a premature birth or suffered the loss of a baby.
Bikers for Babies® events are a major source of donations for the March of Dimes, and the largest such event is held every year in Kansas City. Since its 1995 inception, the Kansas City Bikers for Babies RIDE has raised over $6.2 million. That first event drew 130 riders and raised about $3,000. Growth has been dramatic, and the 2012 RIDE included 4,633 participants bringing in about $640,000 for March of Dimes. There were 75 Grand Donors, those who brought in at least $1,000 each. A huge event like this can’t happen without plenty of volunteers. In this case, there were about 350.
Preregistration events were held at Kobi’s Bar & Grill (Bonner Springs), Blue Springs Harley-Davidson < (Blue Springs), Knuckleheads Saloon (K.C.,MO.), Gail’s Harley-Davidson (Grandview), Rawhide Harley-Davidson (Olathe), and Worth Harley-Davidson (K.C.,MO.) On Sunday, September 16, motorcycles poured into the infield at Kansas Speedway , the RIDE’s home base for the past dozen years. On-site registration was open from 8 to 11 a.m., and riders could head out on the route any time during those hours. They had two optional routes to choose from, one covering 50 miles and the other doubling that distance. A breakfast of Chris Cakes pancakes was available for $5.
Opening ceremonies began at 9:15 with the presentation of the Colors by the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department Honor Guard and Pipe & Drum Corps, the singing of the National Anthem by Maggie Marx, and a prayer and blessing of the bikes by Reverend Melissa Brooks. Karli Ritter of the Fox 4 weather team served as emcee for the sixth consecutive year. Event co-chairmen Penny Sharp and Don Post were on stage to welcome participants as was long-time honorary chairman Johnny Dare from 98.9 The Rock. Jennifer and Tucker Orton added their thanks. Johnny announced a very special surprise for Tucker. Instead of his Harley, Johnny brought his sidecar-equipped Ural motorcycle, and Tucker would be his passenger on the RIDE. You can click here to view our Opening Ceremony Video, and click here to watch Johnny Dare and Tucker Orton taking off on Johnny’s Ural.
Every year, the top fundraiser for Kansas City and nationally is Ed Hale. Ed and his Posse raised more than $137,500 for Bikers of Babies this year. Ed was on stage to present the bundles of cash and jars of coins. Congratulations and thanks to Ed and the Posse for their marvelous fund-raising efforts all year long on behalf of this worthy charity.
As the bikes left the Speedway, they rode under a huge American flag suspended between the extended ladders of two fire trucks from the Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department. It is always a beautiful sight and a great way to begin the RIDE. Motorcycles of all brands participated, cheered on again this year by the Avila Cheer Squad.
When the riders returned to the Speedway, there was plenty to see and do. Lunch was served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. courtesy of Price Chopper. Kyle Elliott and Voodoo Soul provided musical entertainment, as did Rocker Lips. The NASCAR garages were filled with vendors and exhibitors. Crazy Dan Jackson amazed spectators with his stunt riding shows performed on the track’s pit road. His Kawasaki stunt bikes include a scooter, a ZX6R, and a dirt bike equipped with a semi-circular aluminum attachment and a seat belt that enable Dan to roll the bike end-over-end multiple times. Dan is as talented a stunt rider as you will see anywhere. You can click here to watch Crazy Dan Jackson do a quadruple roll on his specially equipped Kawasaki dirt bike.
During the event, an infield fence becomes the Baby Boulevard, a display of baby pictures of “preemies” presented along with “look at me now” photos. Each child’s display indicates his or her weight at birth and gestation period. It is always heartwarming to see how these incredibly tiny infants were able to overcome birth problems and mature to become healthy, normal children. Many of the displays are dedicated to infants who did not survive, a somber reminder that there is still much to be accomplished in the field of infant care. Every year I take a few minutes during the event to kneel near the Baby Boulevard, always with tears flowing down my cheeks, to say a prayer for all of the babies and families represented.
The Grand Donors are rewarded each year with the unique privilege of riding a few laps around the apron of Kansas Speedway’s 1.5-mile D-shaped oval track. After the first group of riders completed their laps, a group of children on miniature motorcycles got their turn, riding from turn 4 to turn 1 and returning on pit road escorted by Ed Hale. The final wave of riders was made up of many members of Ed’s Posse.
For 12 straight years, Worth Harley-Davidson has donated a new Harley to be given away at the Bikers for Babies RIDE. Participants receive an entry for each $100 in donations they bring in. The drawing for the bike is the climax of the closing ceremony every year. Congratulations go to Richard O’Connell, more commonly known as Billy Bobby, winner of a beautiful 2013 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail® Classic. Billy is a long-time member of Ed’s Posse.
Award winners in the ride-in bike show sponsored by Gail’s Harley-Davidson included the following:
1st – Mike Sysom – ‘77 XS650
2nd – Chris Johnson – 2006 Yamaha V-Star 650
1st – Jeff Knight – 2012 Yamaha Raider SCL
2nd – William James Sr. – 2004 Honda 1300 VTX
1st - Jack Gillhern – 2009 Heritage
2nd – Uno Bach – 1999 Road King
1st – Joe Walters – 2008 Ultra Classic
2nd – Michael Shope – 2012 Road Glide
1st – Kate West – 2001 HD Ultra Classic
2nd – Melissa Johnson – 1997 HD Custom Sportster
1st – Paul West – 2000 FLHT
2nd – Dan Dalrymple – 2010 FLHX
1st – Jeremy Binder – 1998 Construction Softail Custom
2nd – Woody Smith – Gold
1st – Mark Docman – 1975 FLH
2nd – Jeff Gensler Sr. – 1976 FLH
1st – Pink Hall – 2011 FLHTCUTG
2nd – Brandy Lemons – 2009 Can-Am Spyder
1st – Rob Snyder – 1991 Lowrider
2nd – 2012 Custom Frame Harley
Best of Show:
Maggie Swearingen – Purple Chopper
Maggie is last year’s ambassador child and is very proud of her little electric three-wheeler. All of the bikers consider her one of their own.
Much more information about the event can be found on the Bikers for Babies website and on their Facebook page. A huge THANK YOU goes out to the event’s loyal sponsors, partners, and volunteer groups:
Entercom - 98.9 The Rock
HCA Midwest Health System
River City T's
Blue Springs Harley-Davidson
Liberty Cycle Center
Santa Fe Tow Service
Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA)
Central States Beverage
Richardson Marketing Group
HAM Amateur Radio Operators
emfluence (web design)
Kansas City Star
Sam’s Club Volunteers
Article by Stripe
Photos by Stripe and by Mike Schweder
Video by Mike Schweder