Wednesday, May 11, 2016

~ Kids Matter ~

Giving Pain a Voice ~ Kids Matter

Lately, my rides have been in the rain.  Today is no different and I have all of my rain gear on even before I leave the house.  Most, I guess, would simply say "it's raining and I'll ride another day."  But once I commit to a good cause, I try hard to come though.

My good friend Dennis Reneau invited me on this fund raiser bike ride.  It starts at the American Legion on Olive Street in Porterville.  At the time I said I would ride with him, I knew little about the cause but that would change.

It is wet and a bit on the cold side as I leave Three Rivers.  Mentally, I am going through my safety check list.  Go slow, watch the curves, look for rocks that might have come down with the rain, and keep a longer space between vehicles than normal.  Also watch for deer, I finally tell myself.  

Our lake is finally filling up and after four years of drought in California, it is a welcomed site.  Without exaggeration, it was pouring when I left Three Rivers and ten miles down the road, past Lake Kaweah, the rain stops, just like that.  Porterville is about an hours ride and I pull into the Shell gas station to top off my tank and it remove all of my rain gear.  In five minutes, I'll join the American Legion Riders, Chapter 20 on Olive Street.  Dennis had said, "you can't miss it, there will be hundreds of bikes."

I'm not your usual group rider but when there is a cause, I make exceptions.  Immediately I see Dennis and we exchange a big bear hug.  He almost lifts me off the ground.  Those marines are tough.  The American Legion Chapter 20 is sponsoring this event.  Dennis introduces me to some of his friends, and although I am not a veteran, I feel at easy with the group.  These events are well organized, punctual, and full of safety messages.  Today is no different.  There is a final prayer for our safety and kick stands go up.  The roar makes the hair on the back of your head stand up.

"Dennis, I'll follow you" and with those few words the group rides on towards Woodlake.  Although I know where Woodlake is, the route is new to me.  Riding along new roads has always agreed with me.  Most of the time, when I found myself lost, those were some of my best rides.  "Let the wind blow you in the right direction" I tell myself in those lost moments.  I once missed an important fork in the road, and missed Canyon De Chelly by 200 miles.  Loved it. 

Over one hundred bikers ride in a safe, staggered formation.  We are almost at the very end of the group, and for me, a good safe spot.  The bikers ahead take a sweeping curve and the sight is awesome.  Sometimes, the best view from the back of the pack is seeing nearly a hundred bikers in front of you.  Today is no exception. 

The purpose of this ride is the real story.  I think about why the American Legion, Chapter 20 is raising money for this event.  Dennis tells me that all of funds raised go to them.  

I get a cool t-shirt and their mantra stands tall ~ Ride for Awareness.  

The organization is called Optimal Hospice Foundation, Kids Camp.  The brochure tells me that "The loss of a loved one touches each member of the family, including children.  To help young people through their bereavement, Optimal Hospice Foundation created Kids Camp.  This over-night summer camp program is specially designed for young people ages 8 - 16 that have experienced the loss of an loved one in the recent past... This innovative experience is available at no cost to families, thanks to generous support from the community. Camp participants may be referred by school counselors, healthcare providers, family members and other individuals.."
The ride is dry and a little over one hundred miles and about that many bikers.  After riding though the countryside, we end up back at the American Legion on Olive Street.  Our donation for this ride includes a hardy lunch.  There is also big raffle of prizes, including a monster TV, donated by Walmart, however that I did not win. 

I do walk away with a wine basket, chocolates, and scented candles.  Denise loves them. 

Another good ride, another good cause.  Kids do matter.

Dennis Reneau and Bob Griego

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