Kick stands up!
At 11 a.m. Sunday, 350 motorcyclists will launch the 16th Annual Father Fred Benefit Ride. A long, snaking train of riders will roar out of Classic Motor Sports on US 31 South in Traverse City and out to the Old Mission Peninsula lighthouse and back. The ride ends at VFW Post 2780 in Traverse City for breakfast.
The launch culminates two days of related festivities hosted by the Northern Chapter of the Harley Owners Group (HOG,) where some members founded the event in 1992.
"We encourage everybody to come out and support us along the route," said ride co-chair Tara Baesch. "There's nothing neater than seeing hundreds of bikes riding in a row."
Sunday's police-escorted ride is a tribute to Father Fred, the charity's founder and namesake. Every year, the ride raises between $10,000-15,000 for the foundation, which meets emergency needs of residents in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska and Leelanau counties.
Setting a goal for 2008, Baesch is feeling ambitious: "This year I'm hoping to get up to $20,000-25,000."
She grounds her ambitious fundraising objective on personal memories of the Catholic priest who died in 2000.
"I knew Father Fred and he taught me a lot about empathy and compassion -- he would never sit in judgement, never tell them they couldn't come back again and never minimize what they were going through," said Baesch. "The thing that touched me the most was he would meet with every single client, Father Thome [the foundation's current spiritual director] does too."
The money raised by the ride boosts the Father Fred Foundation's general operating fund, which can help people with utility bills, medical and dental crises and special transportation medical and dental crises and special transportation needs. The foundation also operates a food pantry and a clothing, household goods and furniture department, offering everything for free.
The annual charity ride keeps alive Father Fred's commitment to serve and help people with respect and love. Even the route honors him, as the route out the Old Mission Peninsula passes the St. Joseph Mapleton church and he is buried in the cemetery there.
"It's a wonderful fundraiser and it's something we look forward to every year," said Martie Manty, executive director of the Father Fred Foundation. "And it's exciting that the people who ride in the ride are from all walks of life: we've got doctors and lawyers and people who own businesses and people who support us in other ways."
"Many people have stories about Father Fred who knew him back in the day," she added.
The 16th Annual Father Fred Benefit Ride begins on Saturday with a 120-mile Poker Run. This event features five stops and ends in downtown Traverse City, where streets will be closed off to display the bikes. The public is invited to browse through this bike show between 5:30-8 p.m.
The next day, riders will gather at Classic Motor Sports beginning at 9 a.m. At about 10:30 a.m., Father Edwin Thome will give the invocation and a color guard from VFW Post 2780 will present the flag.
The $20 fee to participate in the Father Fred Charity Ride is relatively light but many participants eagerly pitch in more.
"A lot of will hand us $50 or extra money," Baesch said.
For more information on the Father Fred Foundation, call 947-2055 or see their Web site at www.fatherfredfoundation.com.