Awe inspiring. Overwhelming. Humbling. Thrilling.
Those are just a few words to describe our first experience as part of Kansas City Bikers for Babies last Sunday. But they don’t even begin to capture the magnitude of the event for those of us that rode, and those that benefit from the cause.
I knew I was in for something big when Saturday morning, Ronnie and I hopped on our bike, joined by Mom & Dad, my brother Matt and his girlfriend, and Ronnie’s Uncle Mark, and headed to North KC’s Worth Harley Davidson for preregistration. We had registered online but needed to pick up our packets for Sunday’s event.
It was a GORGEOUS morning. But my turns on the bike have been few and far between, and I will admit, by that morning, I had yet to love this machine. There is always a mix of fear and purposelessness (is that a word?) that has made it difficult for me to enjoy riding. But I kept trying every chance I got because Ronnie loves it so much.
Something was different that Saturday morning. Maybe it was the sense of community that I felt riding with family members around us on the interstate, or the fact that we were doing this for a cause. Or maybe, I was just finally used to it. The preregistration experience itself was pretty dang cool. We rolled into the parking lot at Worth, being directed by parking attendants, to form some type of manageable parking arrangement for hundreds of bikes, all there for pregistration. 98.9 and Johnny Dare were there, chatting with riders about past Babies rides and some sharing their personal experiences with birth defects in babies they’ve known.
We got in line, and when the volunteers saw how much donations we’d raised ($1,230), they rang some bells and clapped and cheered, especially when they heard we were first-timers. We got a bunch of cool swag as freebies for the donations, walked around the store, and then headed out for some Westport Flea Market burgers (best ever!). And it was only lunchtime!
We took it easy the rest of the day since we had an early start to make the pancake breakfast before the ride on Sunday. Ronnie’s friend Jeremy & Uncle Mark met us Sunday morning to head toward Kansas Speedway (the NASCAR track) for the event where we would meet up with the rest of our crew (my parents, brother, and long-time family friend, Ken & wife Chris).
This is where I started getting choked up, and it was only 8 o’clock in the morning before we even got to the event! We’re heading toward I-70, and as we merge, a few more bikers join us. The next onramp, more bikers. The next, more. Our little crew of 3 bikes had turned into dozens as we exited toward the Speedway, where all of a sudden, there were hundreds of us riding in for Bikers for Babies. I was caught up, and the official ride of thousands of bikes hadn’t even begun!
Despite the crowd, we had no trouble finding the rest of our crew, and besides a short wait for everyone to catch up at the beginning of the ride, we set off riding west out of KC. It was a nice scenic ride, but my favorite parts were riding through the little towns, b/c it seemed that everyone came out to cheer us on. Members of every towns fire department and police force were out and about, some to help with the traffic flow, some just to clap, wave, and observe the phenomena of over 6,000 motorcycles passing through their little towns. Little kids held up handmade signs, touching my heart so deeply, saying “Thank you Bikers for helping me” and a church group’s sign said “God Loves Bikers.”
We met another biker couple along the way with custom-made shirts like we wore (for Skyler), and their daughter had lost her battle with several heart defects (one of which Skyler had) five years ago when she was two and a half. It was chilling and humbling speaking with them, and I couldn’t fathom how even five years later, how they could talk about the day their daughter woke up in the hospital unresponsive after nine days of treatment and a seemingly manageable diagnosis. I choked on thoughts of that happening when Skyler was being treated.
The highlight of the day was when Ronnie’s mom brought Skyler up to meet us after the ride was over. I saw them walking toward where we sat eating lunch, and I dropped my food and took off toward them. Skyler recognized me and smiled and came running into my arms for the biggest hug! She especially got a kick out of seeing her face on the back of our shirts.
I suppose I should wrap this extra long post up now, so I’ll end it with a few of my favorite pics of the event. There are so many more on Flickr, so if you want to see them, please click the Flickr feed on the right column of the site and check out the “Bikers for Babies” set. Thanks again to everyone who donated – that was with only three weeks of us fundraising. Next year we plan on being even more prepared to more than double what we did this year!