Thunder in the air, as bikers rally in Brooklyn neighborhood to help crippled kids

Riding bikes ranging from ‘Hogs’ to motor scooters, these mostly leather-clad bikers again showed their hearts of gold, helping disabled children with much more than just the teddy bears they bring …

Thousands of bikers packed the Brooklyn TriMet bus yard on Saturday, December 5th, awaiting their annual “Teddy Bear Run” to Shriner’s Hospital.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When 6,000 motorcycles – many of them Harley-Davidsons – start their engines, preparing to ride up to the Portland Shiners Hospital for Children from their staging area in the Brooklyn TriMet bus yard on SE 17th Avenue, all you can hear is the sound of rolling thunder.

Thirty years ago, members of “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments” (known by the acronym ABATE, these days) decided to bring some stuffed plush animals up to the young patients at the hospital. Over the years, this event has grown in to massive-but-orderly tradition.

ABATE’s event coordinator Ed Dahl showed off the motorcycle about to be raffled away to a lucky ticket holder ( we entered, but sadly, didn’t win!); Danette Trummel, looking it over, said she and her husband rode to the event on a Harley Street Glide.

Before their 12:30 p.m. departure on December 5, event coordinator Ed Dahl recalled that it started growing when they began a Harley-Davidson motorcycle raffle. “Back then, we were trying to create a better image for motorcycle enthusiasts. But today, the kids at the hospital have become part of our lives.”

ABATE is considered a political action group, Dahl explained. “We’re about freedom of choice. And, we’re providing these kids [at Shiner’s Hospital] with freedom – the freedom to become mobile, instead of being carried or pushed around in a cart or wheelchair.”

Thanks to the proceeds from this annual motorcycle raffle, Dahl said that the group has eliminated a multi-year-long waiting list for power wheelchairs, bath equipment, and van conversions.

“Today, when we get up to the seventh floor of the hospital, we’ll be giving equipment worth about $34,000 to five kids,” reported Dahl. “It took us a few yours to whittle down the waiting list. Now we’re current; we hope to keep it that way.”

On a TriMet bus loaded with toys are helpers Dominic Edwards, Dawn Dahl (her grandfather is Ed Dahl), and Jay Jacobson.

Riderless city buses stuffed full
One of TriMet’s largest buses was completely stuffed with teddy bears and plush toys of all descriptions, an hour before the ride began.

Outside that bus stood Barry Bede, Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Portland Shriners Hospital for Children. “The hospital’s mission is taking care of children with orthopedic or burn-related medical needs. We’ve never charged anyone a penny, although our annual budget for the Portland hospital about $38 million.”

Barry Bede, Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Portland Shriners Hospital for Children, took a moment with Shriner’s ambassador Karlee – one of the over 12,000 active patients at the Portland hospital.

Looking over the sea of an estimated 6,000 bikers on December 5th, Bede said, “This is simply tremendous.  We appreciate what all of the bikers have done for us. It’s a privilege to have them come up and visit us at the hospital. And, they seem to enjoy the event as much as we appreciate their support. These are caring people. Some people think motorcyclists are little rough around the edges, but I’ll tell you, these are some of the finest people you’ll ever meet.”

Led by a Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division car and a motorcycle officer, thousands of bikers line up behind Santa for their annual pilgrimage up “Pill Hill”.

Start your engines
After the motorcycle in this year’s raffle was awarded to the lucky ticketholder, the deep-throated sound of thousands of two- and three-wheeled vehicles filled the air. In an orderly fashion, lines of bikers headed out of the lot, north on SE 17th Avenue, across the Ross Island Bridge, and up the hill to Portland Shriner’s Hospital for Children.

To learn more about ABATE, check their website: CLICK HERE; and to learn more about the Portland Shriners Hospital, see their website: CLICK HERE.

Hogs, street bikes, and even scooters joined the procession on the 2009 Teddy Bear Run.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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