“Kickstands up. Start your motors!” were the exciting last words the announcer at North Collier Regional Park said before the rumbling of more than 1,500 motorcycle engines filled the air on Sunday for the start of the March of Dimes 11th annual “Bikers for Babies” 35-mile police escorted ride.
The annual fundraiser is held at different times of the year across the nation to benefit babies in the U.S. born prematurely, suffering birth defects and infant mortality.
Under mostly blue skies and scant clouds with temperatures near perfect from start to finish, avid riders, chrome divas and weekend warriors were revved up, and the mood in the crowd was awesome as Hogs, Low Boys, Hondas and Yamahas alike lined up bumper to bumper, many people having looked forward to the ride for weeks or months. Some even got up before sunrise to be at the front of the incredibly long line of bikes.
“This is my fourth year doing this,” said Naples resident and Third Street Café co-owner and executive chef, Bill Salley, who was determined to beat the crowd and was among the first to arrive. “Every family is affected by this. I support the event. And I just like doing it.”
He and his friends started off the day with an early breakfast at the Clock restaurant in Naples, and then made it close to the front of the line.
Salley’s friend, Patty Young of Naples said, “I got up early because I want to have fun all day, and it’s a great way to show you care.” Salley and Young met up with two other friends, Dave Hiner and Steve Throesch, also of Naples.
The crowd quickly grew to more than 2,000 people, and after a soloist belted out the national anthem, followed by a prayer, bikers headed out in perfect harmony at the stroke of 11 o’clock, driving an average speed of 35 miles per hour. The entire one hour and 45-minute route was spotted with patrol cars with their red and blue lights flashing, as well as many well-wishers waving, cheering and some holding American flags.
Scott Fischer, owner of the Fort Myers Harley Davidson and Naples Harley Davidson dealerships, was revenue chair for the event, and an ardent supporter. The ride ended at Fischer’s dealership in Fort Myers, where vendors offered clothing, jewelry, tattooing, permanent makeup, food, drinks and more. There was also live rock and roll music by the DVS Band.
Every week, 10,058 babies are born prematurely, 8,361 of those to teen mothers, more than 6,600 are born underweight, and 548 die before their first birthday. The money raised from this event goes toward giving these babies a healthy head start in life.
Dee Snyder, best known as the lead singer for the band Twisted Sister, is the national spokesperson for the March of Dimes Bikers for Babies. Two of his children were born prematurely.
Riders paid $30, passengers were $20, and that included free lunch and soft drinks, as well as a “Bikers for Babies” pin. Other event sponsors included Arthrex, Century Link, Coca-Cola, Metro PCS, Diamond Head Resort and Spa, Wink News, Sam Galloway Auto, Phoenix Law and Budweiser, to name a few.
For more information, visit bikersforbabies.org.