Parked outside a pub in downtown Vancouver on a sunny Sunday in March 2013 are dozens of shiny motorcycles. Lined up in a neat row they command a lot of attention from passers by. Many would wonder what event had attracted the attention of so many riders. Few would ever think that it was a fundraiser for the BC Children’s Hospital’s Oncology Ward, or that over $17,000 would be raised in a single afternoon.
14 years ago Bernie Ryan, rider, mechanic, enthusiast, decided to throw a party in order to celebrate the beginning of the motorcycle racing season. A few years later that party morphed into a fundraising event, part of Balding for Dollars in which 100% of all donations are given to those brave little kids that are fighting cancer at BC’s Children’s Hospital.
“I happened upon a site (www.baldingfordollars.com) a few years ago,” said Bernie. “There was a little girl, totally bald, with a big smile, and it struck me how much courage and heart she must have. Then I thought about this big party I was doing, and figured if I challenged the crowd, (many are friends I knew from the Westwood Motorcycle Racing Club and local shop owners and riders) I could help these kids with a few bucks. $2,000 later, I was bald!!”
That was 10 years and over $100,000 ago.
“That was the ultimate goal,” said Bernie. “I couldn’t quit until I had raised $100,000.”
The popular event is organized by Bernie and run by a dedicated group of volunteers who man the doors, sell prize tickets, process and organize all the donated prizes, take pictures and do all the paperwork needed to successfully pull off a party of this caliber. “This event is 100% volunteer run,” said Bernie. “Nobody makes a penny, there are no admin fees. 100% goes to the kids and their families, even the people who volunteer for the event have to buy a ticket!”
Prizes are collected from local shops, vendors, track day schools, and even personal collections. “There has been just some incredible generosity from the community,” said Bernie, “and the personal donations are amazing. Last year our grand prize was a mint Suzuki 650 VStrom donated by my friend James from Midlife Crisis Racing. He was so selfless that he didn’t want his full name to used; he just wanted to remain anonymous. It’s amazing.”
Motorcycle riders don’t always have the best reputation. There is often the stereotypical view that that motorcyclists, leather clad, helmet wearing, loud bike riding, engine revving riders are bad ass, up to no good, non law abiding citizens. Yet, on that Sunday afternoon over 300 riders gathered for the sole purpose of making a difference in the lives of sick little kids.
Even in tough economical times the riding community came together and made last year the best year ever. “I come to this party because it shows that there is a lot of support, not just for Bernie’s cause and the Children’s hospital, but for motorcycling as a whole.” said Ted Shannon, “We have racers, street riders and fans of the sport, all together, having a good time. It’s good to see. It’s heartwarming.”
“The hospital is a bit surprised when I drop off the cheque,” Explained Bernie. “I don’t have kids myself, I don’t know anyone personally that has cancer so they wonder why I do it. It makes me feel good.”
With last year’s contribution from the riding community Bernie has raised over $108,000.
Of course the hospital is very thankful for the donation but to put things in perspective a little bit, Bernie said he recently went for coffee with the two people he deals with from the Oncology ward. One of the people, Dan, said they had a tough week, they lost three kids, but they took all the kids who were fit to leave the ward to a play at the Hospital. Bernie’s event and ones similar are the things that keep them going during the tough weeks, not only because of the donations but because of the fact that other people care too.
Riders care, racers care, the motorcycle community cares.
Bernie said that Dan has lost two daughters to cancer, the other lady he works with has lost her son and the two of them spend every day helping others deal with life and death. They told Bernie that he and his friends inspire them.
“I guess it goes both ways,” said Bernie.
There had been rumors that last year would be Bernie’s last Daytona Party but after dropping off the cheque he said with a wink, “There might just be a 2014 Bernie’s Annual Daytona Party Fundraiser Yet!”
And there is. This Sunday March 16th at the Shark Club in Vancouver, BC.
Each year brings a whole new group of kids that look to others for support. Let’s show them that riders across Canada and around the world are willing to help! If you are interested please visit Balding For Dollars.
For Details on the Event please visit Bernie’s Facebook Page.