EACH YEAR, about 2,200 children in the United States are diagnosed with brain tumors. The nonprofit Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation of the U.S. is dedicated to finding the cause of this disease - and its cure.
The organization's primary source of funding is an annual motorcycle event called Ride for Kids. Held in more than 20 cities across the country, Ride for Kids has raised more than $15 million for pediatric brain tumor research since 1984.
Columbia has been a Ride for Kids host city for 11 years. Last September, about 1,000 riders on 800 motorcycles met at The Mall in Columbia for a 40-mile ride that raised more than $173,000. Participants included motorcycle riders from all walks of life, united by a single goal - to raise money for children affected by the disease.
This year's Ride for Kids will be Sept. 15. Registration begins at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of the mall. A $35-per-motorcycle minimum contribution is required.
Riders, escorted by police officers from Howard and Montgomery counties and state police, will depart from the mall, rain or shine, at 10 a.m. The course runs through the back roads of Howard and Montgomery counties. The event will end with a "Celebration of Life" on the grounds of Lincoln Technical Institute, 9325 Snowden River Parkway, Columbia.
A 15-member volunteer task force, led by Columbia residents Bob Henig and Jackie Cooke, organizes the event locally. Henig is the owner of Bob's BMW motorcycle dealership in Jessup, and Cooke is a production specialist who organizes events for the Rouse Co.
A passion for motorcycles first drew Henig and Cooke to the program. After attending the Ride for Kids event, both felt the need to become involved.
According to Henig, who has been a task force leader for six years, 87 cents of every dollar raised from the event goes to medical research. Thanks to the many dedicated volunteers and local sponsors, "we spend practically nothing to raise a lot of money," Henig said.
"I like to give back to the community," he said. "For me, that's two communities: the one I live in, and the motorcycle community I am active in."
Last year, Henig helped raise more than $38,000 for Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. He was the top individual fund-raiser, and his business brought in the most money of any local dealership. Henig's goal this year is to raise $75,000 - and he's more than halfway there. He has held an auction of motorcycle supplies and other items, and is collecting pledges.
Cooke participated in her first Ride for Kids in 1994 and became a task force leader in 1998. "I had no choice. I had to help," she said.
"What continues to amaze me," she added, "is no matter how much I think I'm giving, I just get back so much more."
The Ride for Kids task force needs riders, financial contributors, volunteers and spectators to come out Sept. 15. Information: 301-497-8949 or www.ride4kids.org.
Scaggsville resident Eilene Brocenos is the mother of a pediatric brain tumor survivor. She became a Ride for Kids task force member after attending the event for the first time last year.
"The people who are on the task force - especially those with no direct involvement with pediatric brain tumors - it just amazes me that they are willing to give up their time," Brocenos said.
Her son Nathan was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1999, when he was 7.
After extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Nathan's doctors are confident that he is on the road to a full recovery. Nathan, now 10, is in the fifth grade at Hammond Elementary School.
Besides being a good pupil, he is also a competitive swimmer. He also plays the piano and percussion in the school band and plays flag football.
For the second year, the Brocenos family will be among the "guest families and star kids" who are invited to ride along as VIP motorcycle passengers on the Ride for Kids route.
"We had a blast," Brocenos said of her family's experience last year.
Congratulations to the 20 Hammond Elementary School children who participated in the Howard County Public Library's Summer Reading Program, "Race to Read."
They are Cat Demos, Carey Locke, Kyle Forbes, Daniel Sneiderman, Jonathan Thews, Laura Sullivan, Tony Horvath, Zachary Darnell, Stephen Christian, Chris Sindall, Kim Sindall, Michael Sindall, Nicholas Nesky, Lauren Kauffman, Natalie Leffler, Alexandra Smiraglia, Daniel Arday, Tyler Zamora, Eric Paraska and Alex Haugen.
The pupils were among 10,903 children, in preschool through fifth grade, who took part in the program. "Race to Read" ran from early June until the end of last month.