Do you love cruising down the highway, the wind at your back and the sun warming your face? According to motorcycleroads.com, you are not alone. In 2013, South Dakota counted over 69,000 registered motorcycles to rank 33rd in the nation. Minnesota registered 240,000 to rank 11th, and California, Florida, Texas, and Pennsylvania all claimed over 400,000 registered motorcycles per state.
Motorcycle rights organizations have also gained popularity. ABATE is one of the largest of 20 organizations in Minnesota. Their Way West chapter is based in Bellingham.
But if you are expecting a report on motorcycle gangs or crime, climb down off your high horse! Contrary to the iconic bad boy image of bikers, Way West ABATE members only possess teddy bears with the intent to distribute them to children across the state. ABATE members give thousands of Buddy Bears to ambulance and fire and rescue departments, who in turn give them to children during traumatic or tragic events. The bears sport motorcycle vests emblazoned with ABATE.
To fund the Buddy Bears and other charitable programs, ABATE will hold their biggest fundraiser of the year on July 21, at Lac qui Parle County Park. Admission is $15 for members and non-members. The fundraiser features a campout for anyone 21 and older. Primitive camping is free and the club hosts a burger and brat feed. The band, Neon Gypsy, will play. Motorcycle games, bean bag games, and hay wagon rides are also planned.
Questions? Can’t attend, but want to donate? Contact Le Ann Stone at 320.226.9513.
All proceeds will be used to support the Buddy Bears and other programs such as Share the Road. Share-the Road, provides education about road safety, including the no-texting-and-driving billboards that have popped up along highways across the state. Dial-a-Ride, another ABATE program, uses designated drivers to pick up motorcycles and or riders to ensure they make it home safely.
The Way West chapter of ABATE hit everyone’s radar this spring when they rumbled down the highway for hundreds of miles raising funds for the family of Bella Rademacher. Bella is a five-year-old cancer survivor from Bellingham who endured months of treatment in Sioux Falls. When Bella was finally ready to make her way back home, the ABATE riders escorted her and her family, who are also members, on their entire journey. In every town, well-wishers lined the sides of their route cheering them on. Le Ann Stone, a member of the Way West chapter said, “I had chills the whole ride, there was such an outpouring from the community.”
Last year, the Way West chapter held a combination car and bike show in Bellingham. The fundraiser brought in over $3000 with all the proceeds going to charity. Some of the funds went to Toys for Kids, one of Way West’s most popular causes which gives toys to local children. Way West also donates to Big Stone Family Services and Lac qui Parle Family Services.
The organization contributes to Santa Days in Nassau and Marietta, and last December, they donated to the Montevideo American Legion to support Adopt-a-Family. Through Life Link, the club adopted a family suffering hardship to surprise them with Christmas dinner, presents, and clothing. They didn’t stop there, though, they assisted four other families in need of a helping hand.
The Way West Abate chapter counts close to 100 members and meets at the Checkered Flag in Bellingham at 7 p.m. on the first Friday of every month. Everyone is welcome. You can always spot plenty of tattoos and leather jackets, but some members are first-time riders, others have been around the block a few times. Their rides range from sweet little suzukis to souped-up choppers. Some don’t even ride! They just think not hanging out with this group would be “unbearable.”