For those who may not be aware, every year I help to plan and put on the Baltimore/Washington Ride for Kids. This ride, along with 36 other "Ride for Kids" held throughout the year in 37 locations around the US, sponsors the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. We are their main source of income for research, family support, information services, etc. Before the rides started 25 years ago, a child diagnosed with a brain tumor had about a 4% chance of survival. Today the survival rate is about 60%. An enormous increase, but NOWHERE NEAR the survival rate it should be! (I'm basing the numbers from memory of the training session I had a week ago, can't guaranty I'm remembering right)
I started attending the rides in 2001. I had seen several magazine columnists write about the events, so figured I'd give it a try. I had no idea of the emotional impact this event would have on me. Every ride has a number of sidecars and big bikes up front. These bikes hold the true "Stars" of the ride, children currently undergoing treatment for, or have survived brain tumors.
I attended the ride again in 2002, with my new bride. Laya also saw and felt the emotional impact. At that ride I spoke with some people I knew who volunteered for the ride. One of them suggested I attend a Task Force meeting and see if I'd be interested in joining the Task Force that plans the ride, or at least be a volunteer at a future ride. I attended the meeting, and really enjoyed meeting and interacting with the folks on the Task Force. I joined, and the next year, 2003 I assisted the parking lead. In 2004 and 2005 I led the parking team myself. Then in 2006, the ride was on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashana. Also about this time I was becoming more observant, and part of the parking lead's job is to train parkers on Saturday, which I no longer wanted to do (required a long drive from home). So I trained a new person to become the parking lead, and that year I only helped to plan the ride, I didn't actually ride. After that year, the Task Force would check the calendar with me to make sure the ride wasn't on a Yom Tov.
Last year I helped to register clubs (the clubs that brought in the top amount of money got to ride directly behind the kids in the following year's ride), and I was supposed to do that again this year. However, I found out there was a conflict, and the parking lead was not able to attend. So I became the parking lead again (someone else agreed to do the training on Saturday for me). This year's event bust out the previous record, and we raised over $276,000 for the kids. Not only that, but my club raised the most money this year (with the help of some friends who credited their amounts to the club, and who just became honorary members!), so next year we get to ride up just behind the kids. I hope to ride, it'll be the first time since 2002 that I actually ride in the event.
But anyway, back to the heart of the matter... Why do I do this.
Take a look at this picture. These kids are all survivors. There were a total of 11 on stage, these are just some.
Paige, the beautiful little girl being interviewed, is 4 years old. That puts her smack in between Tikvah and Ahava. I thank G-d that my kids are healthy kids, (ptu, ptu, ptu) and feel like it is paying back (keeping up the good to help other kids who are not so fortunate). Plus, this type of activity gives a positive public view of motorcyclists. There are still many people out there who go by the old stereotypes of motorcyclists all being gang members, brawling, dealing drugs, etc.
And finally, I have to admit, it's also fun. At the end point this year, I was responsible for making sure 345 motorcycles were able to park without creaming each other. I'm happy to report I was successful! (see below.)
and no, I don't have big, beefy shoulders. There's a guy with a black leather jacket behind me.