One of the louder ways to raise money to help kids with cancer and their families is to get them out on the road… on motorcycles. Mary Saner explains.
Every weekend from April through early November, hundreds of motorcyclists gather in a different American city, with the same goal — to raise money for kids with cancer.
Eddie James, one of this year's organizers, says the idea began 24 years ago with a few motorcyclists outside Atlanta, Georgia. "They had a friend whose daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor," he explains. "And people were surprised to learn that pediatric brain tumors are the number one cancer killer of children in the country. They thought, 'let's see if we can get a bunch of our friends together, go for a ride, and raise some funds.' And that really lit the spark for this."
Today, the Ride For Kids supports the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Each ride is a local affair, with local organizers and riders from around the area.
One of the motorcycle groups participating in this Ride for Kids near Baltimore, Maryland, is the Delmarva Lady Cruisers, a chapter of the national Women on Wheels organization. To raise money for the Foundation, the group raffles off a motorcycle-themed quilt. "We look all year for material that's got motorcycles on it," member Lisa Strang explains. "We travel around the country and look for motorcycle material and then make a quilt from it."
A $5 donation gets you a chance at the double-bed quilt. Shirley Windsor, who's taking part in her third Ride for Kids, says it's for an important cause. "Last year we raised $1700, and this year, about $1200. It's just a great thing to do. … It's for the kids."
Windsor says a bond develops between bikers and the children and their families during the Ride for Kids. She recalls the moment that got her hooked on the event. "The first year, one of the mothers came up and said to me, 'This is my son, and he's here because of you all.' And I'm here as long as I can ride."
Event volunteers at the registration tables ring bells each time $1000 is donated. Kim Gumabay, whose 8-year-old son Ethan is a cancer survivor, stands nearby with her family. "You watch these registration tables and people just dumping out money, coins and dollars. It's so grassroots. They just bring everything they can and it's fabulous."
The motorcycles have pulled into the huge parking lot of a local shopping mall, lining up in rows so long you can't see to the end of them. As a police car escort pulls into position, lights flashing, bikers climb onto their motorcycles and get ready to ride. Each child sits behind a cyclist, or snug in a sidecar attached to one of the lead bikes.
Ethan Gumabay is excited about taking part in the charity ride parade. "You usually ride on the side," he explains, peering out from his helmet. "It's cool!"
Eric Reca, also eight, agrees. "It's good to be in a sidecar, 'cause if you come to a bump, you won't fall out."
Eric is riding with his older sister Maggie, who has a brain tumor. Their mother, Cathy Reca, says the start of the Ride, when bikes pull out onto the highway one by one, is hard to describe. "It's extremely emotional. Once you see all those riders take off from out there, you'll get overwhelmed."
The 2007 Baltimore/Washington Ride for Kids raised over $200,000. The money will go towards pediatric brain tumor research, new less-invasive therapies, and support programs for kids with cancer.