Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Richmond Ride for Kids 2009

If it’s June, then it’s Ride for Kids time again in Richmond. For those new to this phenomenon, let me fill you in a bit - Ride for Kids is an amazing fundraising program in which hundreds of bikers come together, take some kids with brain tumors and their siblings on a great motorcycle ride, and raise thousands and thousands of dollars for pediatric brain tumor research. In short, it’s fun, it’s inspirational, and every ride is another step closer to finding the cure for childhood brain cancer. This year, the Richmond Ride for Kids event raised more than $117,700.00, a record for the Richmond ride, and proof that there are no economic downturns for caring and compassion.

The heroes in this story are many. I’ve already mentioned the bikers. These are folks from all walks of life, with an enthusiasm for motorcycles, who, out of the goodness of their hearts, use their personal passion to make a difference for others. Some of them contribute with a basic registration donation of $35, and others spend all year raising money for kids with brain tumors, rolling into the ride with tens of thousands in donations tucked into their leather saddle bags. Their connections to the issue are varied, but let me tell you, the difference they are making is truly significant.

Ride for Kids events take place throughout the year, in locations all over these United States, and support the efforts of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF). What started as a single event in 1984, organized by one North Carolina couple and their biker friends, has grown and grown, and has enabled the PBTF to become the largest non-government source of funding for pediatric brain tumor research. No kidding. All those bikers, bringing in all those donations from generous friends, neighbors, co-workers, and corporate matching gifts – every one of them is changing the face of this disease. The totals are staggering. In 2008 alone, Ride for Kids helped the PBTF raise it medical research funding commitments by more than $8 million. And while we’re on the subject, let me just note that the PBTF has earned Charity Navigator’s highest rating of 4 stars for five years running. So, if you decide you’d like to contribute, you can trust that your donation will go where it counts.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the army of volunteers and the local sponsors. The Richmond ride has been going now for seven years, and I never fail to be impressed by the number of volunteers lining the registration tables from the wee hours of the morning. And I’m sure I only see a small fragment of the work. Each ride has a local Task Force coordinating details with the national organization, and it all appears to come together seamlessly, with lots of dedication and elbow grease. Ride for Kids events are thoughtful and well organized, a fine opportunity for the volunteer looking to make a difference and have a good experience. A lot of what makes these events run so well comes from the support of local sponsors. I don’t know the details of these arrangements, but I can see that the logistics involved require coordination with groups ranging from the Richmond Times Dispatch (host facility) and the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (ride escorts), to the providers of tents, staging, sound system, and food before and after the ride. Did I mention that Ride for Kids provides food for the participants? My kids and I have now had our monthly allowance of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and a tasty lunch, all compliments of Ride for Kids.

And finally, I must acknowledge the families. That’s my connection, and how my role is defined. My job at Ride for Kids is to provide kids. Two, in particular - one who has experienced a brain tumor, and one who has traveled the compassionate road at her side, both of whom look forward to Ride for Kids with the unbridled passion that only youth can embody. They may be afraid of roller coasters or bees or snakes, but when it comes to donning a helmet and cruising off on the backseat of a huge motorcycle, my kids have no fear! Ride for Kids is a great reward for all of us families, who spend so much time in hospitals and doctor offices, on the phone with insurance and medication providers, and begin each day with a deep breath as we evaluate the challenges, and celebrate the accomplishments in the process of the brain tumor experience. For us, Ride for Kids is just as they call the closing ceremony of the event - a “Celebration of Life” - joyous, fun, and empowering! We are so grateful for everyone who makes these events possible. So, hats off to Ride for Kids and PBTF, to the motorcyclists of the Richmond ride, and I must not forget to offer a special shout-out to the bikers who escorted my kids this year - Butch and Frankie, you’re the best!

Want to get involved? For more information about Ride for Kids and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation go to http://www.pbtfus.org/.

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