Thanks to Bob Kruppa, president of the Sun City Roadrunner Motorcycle Club, for sharing the story of their most recent fundraiser.
Motorcycles begin arriving in the cool, early morning at the Biltmore Mall parking lot in Asheville, N.C., for the annual "For The Kids" fundraiser that supports the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Touring bikes, cruisers, motorcycles with side cars, sport bikes, new and old -- all were there for one reason and that was to raise money "for the kids."
More than 20 years ago, Mike and Dianne Traynor put together a motorcycle ride to help raise money for their friends who had a child stricken with a brain tumor. From that day on, the event grew not only in numbers but expanded to more than 24 fundraising rides throughout the United States.
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This year's event in Asheville, N.C., on Aug. 28 brought in more than 500 motorcycles. Bikers came from North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.
Each rider came to support the foundation with a personal gift, or as part of a fundraiser from their local communities. The money is used for basic and clinical research, quality-of-life programs for patients and their families, as well as scholarships for the survivors.
More than 40 research facilities around the country are funded by the foundation, some of which include Duke University Medical Center, St. Jude Research Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins Oncology Center and the Mayo Clinic Cancer Research Center.
After registration, coffee, doughnuts and some camaraderie with other bikers, the best part of this event is talking with the kids and their parents.
Each year, you see new faces, returning survivors and others who have lost their child but continue to support this effort. Some of the stories that you hear make your heart sink, while the success stories bring tears of joy to your eyes.
The most fascinating part, though, is the incredible joy and positive attitude of the kids. Dr. Gerald Grant from Duke University Medical Center said the joy in these kids is what keeps him going each day in his research to find a cure for pediatric brain tumors.
After registration and donations are completed, there is a police-escorted ride from Asheville to Lake Lure (location of the filming of "Dirty Dancing"). The kids all ride on the back of motorcycles or in motorcycles with side cars. What a treat this is for them after spending weeks and months in hospitals receiving treatments or tumor-removing surgeries.
Row by row the motorcycles start their engines and head for the Blue Ridge Parkway. What a view with hundreds of motorcycles riding through the morning fog, winding curves, and up and down the mountainsides. Once you see Chimney Rock you know we are near our destination of Lake Lure, where the motorcycles are again lined up row by row.
Lunch is provided and then it's down to the business side of this event.
Dr. Grant presents updates of the research at Duke. Every year they are making more and more strides to help cure pediatric brain tumors.
Next is the interview with the kids. It is truly amazing how upbeat these young people are given that they all have a life-threatening illness.
Little Brady flew in from Iowa with his parents for this event. He was only 3 or 4 years old but he brought the house down with his witty comments.
Rarely do these kids talk about their brain tumors, but instead talk about summer vacations, goals in life, and, of course, the motorcycle ride from Asheville. One by one each child was interviewed.
There were many success stories, including a heart-warming talk by Seth's mom who said that her son is alive and well due to the advances made at the Duke Medical Center as a result of the funding provided by the foundation.
Matthew recently graduated from college and was funded in part by a Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation scholarship.
Hannah is doing well but had to put her chemo treatment on hold due to chemicals causing a renal failure.
Julia is a survivor of several years and has a boyfriend. She wanted to hug each and every biker for participating in such a successful event.
Many of those who attended raised funds in their communities. Some were individuals, some were motorcycle businesses, and others were motorcycle organizations or clubs. The top individual fundraiser contributed $35,000. He was the top fundraiser now for the past three years. The top business fundraiser gave $20,000, and the top motorcycle organization/club raised $41,000. The total raised from this event was $113,815.
The five-hour ride back to Bluffton was hot and humid, but filled with cool memories of the "For The Kids" event. Already I just can't wait until next year's ride.
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