||Rebels With a Cause
Biker Charity Rides Belie Motorcyclists' Tough-Guy Image
Each August, a small town in South Dakota's Black Hills becomes the center of the motorcycle universe. The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally opened its weeklong, 71st edition on Aug. 8. But the chrome armada really begins to roll into town the week before, and it may be almost the end of the month before the last taillight fades into the distance. Sturgis' official population is 6,442. During the rally, it grows to more than 460,000.
Attending Sturgis is an annual pilgrimage for some bikers. Many more just want to go once to check it out, as the entertainment runs the gamut from concerts to flat-track racing. But even more riders are there to participate in organized charity rides.
Bikers in general tend to be a pretty generous lot. For example, the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation is the official charity of the Honda Riders Club of America, which has been the presenting sponsor of Ride for Kids since 1991. And in its 30-year association with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Harley-Davidson has raised more than $76 million for the charity through its employees, dealers and customers.
"It's funny to see the burly biker dude giving a little kid a sidecar ride," says Brian Bentley, owner of Brian's Harley-Davidson in Langhorne, Pa., and an organizer of the MDA Ride for Life, "but on some level we are out to prove to society that bikers are not evil or crazy."
Looking for a way to make the same point? Here are four charity rides scheduled during the Sturgis rally, and six more big charity bike events that prove many riders are really rebels with a cause.
BUFFALO CHIP'S LEGENDS RIDE
Billed as "the ride that rocks," this event is organized by the Sturgis Buffalo Chip campground to raise money for the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame and Sky Ranch for Boys. Things get started in Deadwood, S.D., on the morning of Aug. 8. The 43-mile route starts at the Silverado Franklin Gaming Complex in Deadwood and ends at the Buffalo Chip with a reception, art exhibit, live auction and concert. Each year it attracts a number of celebrities, such as comedian Pee Wee Herman and rock singer Steven Tyler. Tickets are $150 per person and are limited to 300 participants. In three years, the Legends Ride has raised more than $150,000.
9TH ANNUAL STURGIS MAYOR'S RIDE
If you plan to go to Sturgis and make a nuisance of yourself, at least participate in the annual Mayor's Ride to benefit the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department. Leaving the Motorcycle Expo area on the morning of Aug. 8, the ride follows a route past several Black Hills attractions, including Bear Butte State Park and Orman Dam, Spearfish Canyon and historic Deadwood, and down Boulder Canyon to Sturgis for lunch with Mayor Mark Carstensen. Cost is $161.25, and last year's ride collected more than $10,000 for the fire department.
Rough Riders: RUMBLE FOR THE HEARTLAND TOUR
This first ride organized by Lorenzo Cycles and Walk with Heroes to benefit Operation Homefront and Walter Reed Army Medical Center will roll out on Aug. 9 from Fort Devils Tower, Wyo., for an 80-mile run to the Buffalo Chip campground and concert complex in Sturgis. The ride will be led by company co-founder Lorenzo Lamas, who will pilot the Knockout, a prototype custom motorcycle designed by former Marine and master builder Ralph Randolph. The Knockout will be auctioned in 2012 to support Operation Homefront. Ride participants get a VIP reception at Buffalo Chip and entertainment by Toby Keith and Poison.
HOGS 4 HEROES STURGIS RIDE
Hogs 4 Heroes is a nonprofit working to establish free group counseling and mentor programs for soldiers struggling with physical and emotional scars from service. The group is hosting seven fundraising rides around the country, including an Aug. 11 event at Sturgis. A 150-mile ride ($100 includes a passenger, T-shirt, lunch, dinner, party and patch) and a 60-mile ride ($25 lunch and the party) will both start in Rapid City, S.D. The longer ride includes Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and Keystone. Both rides will converge at Keystone for lunch, and then end together at Sturgis for a party featuring live music, contests and food.
MDA RIDE FOR LIFE
Organized by the Eastern Harley-Davidson Dealers Association, this event near Philadelphia has raised more than $15 million in its 24-year history for programs of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This year's event, held April 30 to May 1, raised more than $960,000 and attracted more than 1,110 riders, many of whom are Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) members who rally at Harley dealerships in the region and then ride to the event. The first featured live entertainment and a chili cook-off at VF Outlets in Reading, Pa. There was also a bike parade from Lyon Station to Dorney Amusement Park in Allentown, Pa., led by kids riding in sidebar rigs.
WEST COAST THUNDER
This Memorial Day ride benefits the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee. Founded in 2000 by a small group from a local H.O.G. chapter that simply rode together to the cemetery for its annual remembrance ceremony, the event grew quickly with the support of Skip Fordyce Harley-Davidson in Riverside, Calif. The 2011 event attracted 3,500 registered riders. It started at Skip Fordyce Harley-Davidson and proceeded 11 miles to Riverside Cemetery to pay respects to the veterans interred there. Since its inception, West Coast Thunder has donated more than $350,000 to the Riverside National Cemetery.
KYLE PETTY CHARITY RIDE ACROSS AMERICA
Seventeen years ago, NASCAR driver Kyle Petty and four friends rode motorcycles from North Carolina to a race in Phoenix. What began as a casual "hey buddy" ride became an annual fundraising event to benefit children's charities, primarily Victory Junction, a camp for children with chronic medical conditions founded in 2004 by Petty and his wife, Pattie. To date, the rides have raised more than $14 million for Victory Junction and other charities, and more than 7,200 children have attended the camp free of charge.
ROLLING THUNDER RIDE FOR FREEDOM
This annual Memorial Day event is probably the largest one-day motorcycle rally in terms of sheer size, with the number of bikes estimated at 250,000 to 400,000. The brainstorm of a small group of veterans who sought to draw attention to POW/MIA issues, the first "demonstration ride" in 1988 drew 2,500 motorcyclists. Departing from the Pentagon, the ride flows over the Potomac River Bridge to the reflecting pool of the National Mall. Many riders are veterans, and the vibe of the event is patriotic - this is a ride of remembrance, not a party.
10TH ANNUAL AMERICA'S 9/11 RIDE
This ride commemorates lives lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and follows a route that stops at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the Ground Zero site in New York City, from Aug. 18 to 20. America's 9/11 Foundation raises money for scholarships for children of active first responders (police, firefighters, emergency medical services) and other programs supporting first responders. The organization annually awards $30,000 in scholarships and has presented $350,000 to first-responder departments. There were about 1,000 bikes on the 2010 ride. In 2011, group size will be limited to 2,996, matching the number of lives lost in the 9/11 attack.
LOVE RIDE 28
Scheduled for Oct. 23, this event is making a comeback after the recession interrupted its 25-year run in 2009. Last year, a Love Ride Retro was capped at 2,000 riders, and this year the event will be capped at 5,000 riders, who will converge at Castaic Lake State Park, 41 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The ride was founded in 1984 by Oliver Shokouh, owner of Harley-Davidson of Glendale, and as many as 23,000 motorcycles have participated in past Love Rides, which have raised $22 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and children's charities such as Autism Speaks.
RIDE FOR KIDS
The primary fundraising effort of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, Ride for Kids is a series of 40 regional charity rides held across the country each summer. In 2010, the rides raised $4.5 million and attracted 17,280 motorcyclists. Honda and the Honda Riders Club of America have supported Ride for Kids for 20 years. Honda also gives away a new motorcycle and other gear at each ride. The minimum donation to ride is $35, but individuals and teams frequently raise more than $10,000 at each event by soliciting donations.
(Source: MSN.com, 08/08/11)
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