Cruising for Fun Benefits Worthy CauseBy Michelle Rauch Posted: April 1st, 2011
Wayne Baker believes there is nothing better in life than riding his motorcycle. "My sanity is why I ride." He has been riding for forty years for a reason. "It's a good way to be able to just get away from the stresses of day in day out drudgery." When Baker is riding his bike he has a sense of freedom, a chance to feel the warmth of the sun and take in all the smells of nature. It's something you just can't capture when you are riding in a car even with the windows down.
He shares his love of riding the open road with nearly 200 other people in Lexington. They are members of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club and Baker is the First Officer of the Lexington Chapter. Like many sports, they have their "uniform": black leather, chaps, gloves, chains, doo-rags. But before you stereotype the person behind the image, stop! These men and women are doctors, lawyers, police officers and in Baker's case a mortgage loan officer. "We've got a little bit of everyone in the club," Baker says.
The Southern Cruisers is an International Club with 35,000 members in 47 states and 11 countries. There are 20 chapters in Kentucky. They distinguish themselves as a riding club with a focus on family. The bikes they ride are not brand specific. All makes and models are welcome. Their slogan sums it up. "It's all about the ride." That is what brings them together.
They are sharing that camaraderie with what may be perceived as an unlikely group of people. The patients of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis. The Southern Riders are driven to raise money for these kids. It's a commitment the Lexington chapter made when they organized in 2000.
The men and women get on their bikes and travel to Memphis yearly. They come roaring in and the kids come piling out of the hospital. Even though many of the children's faces are obscured by masks for their wellbeing, you can see their eyes. Eyes that light up with joy when they see the riders decked out in their leather and looking pretty cool on their bikes. The kids get to sit on the bikes, talk travels and leave with their own "doo-rags" donated by the Southern Cruisers.
The kids may have a sparkle in their eyes, but the parents have something else. "The parents are where you see the hope," Baker says. That hope is contagious. One St. Jude parent was so touched by the charity of these strangers that she joined the Southern Cruisers after meeting them. Then she wrote a song. One verse says: "You don't know my name. I'm 12 yrs old, I've got friends who care. You can hear them coming a mile away. Today's the day the Southern Cruisers come to town."
Riding his bike and visiting St. Jude conjure up some of the same feelings for Baker and his friends. "You've got the feeling of freedom and enjoyment (riding) versus being able to actually help somebody and the enjoyment that you get out of that. You can't walk out of there without crying." In fact Baker can't really talk about it without getting teary-eyed. He stops to explain the tears. He says it's not the condition of the children that makes him cry. Many of the kids are so young they don't even know what life is like outside the hospital. Too young to know there is something wrong. He is touched to tears because of the people who are there every day giving their time to help the kids. It's an inspiration. A chance for him and the other club members to enjoy life in the moment and appreciate how precious it really is.
Wayne Baker speaks from experience. His own son was diagnosed when he was young with a progressive disorder of his connective tissues that can be fatal. It's something his family deals with daily. "All of us have problems, and some of us have a lot of problems," Baker says. But even then, he says visiting St. Jude opens your eyes to see there is always someone out there who has it worse.
The person to person contact the Southern Cruisers make with the children of St. Jude is not the only gift of healing they bring. It takes $1.6 million a day to operate the hospital. That money is used for care and clinical research into childhood diseases, cancer in particular. No child is turned away, regardless of the family's ability to pay. The findings made at St. Jude are shared freely with doctors around the world.
Every year the Southern Cruisers raise money to contribute to that cause. The Lexington Chapter has raised in excess of $40,000 to date. Nationally, the Southern Cruisers have raised over $1,000,000 to benefit St Jude.
For the second year in a row, the group is hosting a benefit concert. Everyone in the community is invited to The Barrel House in Lexington, April 9th. Fifteen dollars gets you in the door to enjoy a four-hour concert featuring The Stella Vees Blues Band. The regional blues band has made a name for themselves with their Chicago/West Coast style. They are regulars on the famous Beale Street in Memphis. One hundred percent of the ticket sales go directly to St. Jude.
The Southern Cruisers have ambitious goals for this fundraiser. They dream of growing it every year and evolving it into an all day or weekend-long concert with many genres of music. To make that happen it will take community involvement. "All of it is about helping out and being able to raise money to make the world a little better place," Baker says.
Whether you're a biker or you've never been near one, this is something for everyone. They invite everyone to get onboard. Whether it's attending their fundraisers or sponsoring them, the money will help the children at St. Jude. Baker admits "It would be hard for one average person such as myself to donate a million dollars to St. Jude." But he is learning how easily one person and one dollar can add up.
Those tears you may not expect to well up from a biker are back. "It all starts with one person. I've always believed you just do what you can and hopefully somebody else will see what you're doing and join in--it grows and gets bigger and bigger and bigger." That's how their club has grown and it's how they are making a difference for the kids at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Baker echoes what a lot of people are feeling."We're bombarded at all angles with bad stuff in the news...but I have to think there is more good than there is bad and becoming involved with the good might help us stamp out the bad. The worse things get, the more people need to be out there helping others. Whether it's helping themselves, helping their neighbors or helping kids at St. Jude's. There are a lot of great causes out there."
- Thursday, June 20th
- Lexington Human Rights Commission 50th Anniversary Celebration
- African Drumming Classes
- The Twiggenbury's (British Rock)
- Lexarts Is Rolling Out The Barrels
- Francisco‚Äôs Farm Art Festival
- Children's Clothing Company Bella Bliss Teams Up With The Leukemia And Lymphoma Society
- Go Red For Women At The Lexington Legends
- Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation Golf Tournament
- Night Of The Stars Gala