If all goes as hoped, Merrill may soon be home to a local chapter of an international organization dedicated to empowering and supporting abused children. Bikers Against Child Abuse International, commonly known as B.A.C.A., is a 501(c )(3) corporation whose sole mission is to create a safer environment for abused children.
As outlined in the organization’s mission statement: “We exist as a body of bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and our physical presence. We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.”
Formed in Utah in 1996, the organization has since grown to over 200 chapters, in a dozen different countries around the globe.
Thanks to a group of like-minded local bikers, a BACA chapter may soon be making a new home in the Merrill area. The Merrill Foto News was recently granted a rare interview with chapter members for an inside look at the organization and how it operates.
According to chapter co-founder “Dragon,” the roots of BACA Northwoods Chapter date back to February of 2013.
Given the organization’s mission and possible circumstances members could face at any time, members are never identified by their birth names, but rather “road names” as given by other members as part of a member’s entry into the organization.
“I had been asked to join a number of biker organizations over the years, but most of those organizations didn’t have a focus,” he explained. “After researching BACA, I realized they had a focus I supported. You can just tell when a child is abused, you can see it in their eyes. I was tired of sitting around and doing nothing and I felt I could make a difference in future situations, based on things I had experienced in my past.
“As part of my research, at that time I realized BACA did not have any chapters in Northern Wisconsin. The nearest chapters to us up here, was Green Bay and Hudson. I decided to contact BACA International to inquire about forming a chapter and was put in touch with ‘Half Pint’ being she had expressed an interest as well.”
Dragon and co-founder Half-Pint met in Rhinelander in February of 2013 and the foundation for the BACA Northwoods Chapter was soon established.
“Soon after we met, we began organizing and hosting monthly meetings,” Half-Pint adds. “During those meetings, we invited anyone and everyone who rides and has an interest in helping and empowering abused children. We received a great response from the very start, turnout at the meetings was great. Most of us have skin in the game.
“A majority of us have either been abused, or have family members and/or close friends who have been abused.”
Word traveled quickly regarding the organization and membership grew as more local bikers found themselves interested in the BACA mission.
By late summer of 2013, the Merrill based BACA Northwoods Chapter had gained temporary chapter status by BACA International. While having not yet gained full chapter status, it takes several years of dedication and training.
“Like Half Pint said, we got off to a great start,” Dragon adds. “We made a point of focusing on building trust and forming a bond with each other from the start. We were a small group of local bikers who believed in the BACA mission, our group has continued to grow ever since.”
“I was approached by Half-Pint about joining the organization and hosting them,” adds member “Rosco.” “I sat in on a few meetings and I knew right away this was something I believed in and wanted to be a part of.”
Rosco soon joined along with his wife, “Rabit.”
Members “Diesel” and “Cobra” joined shortly after.
“I learned about BACA from Rosco,” Diesel adds. “The more I learned, the more I liked what they stood for. I wanted to be a part of empowering abused children to not be afraid of the world they live in.”
Cobra nods in agreement, citing the same reasoning for his motivation to join the BACA organization.
Although BACA is open to anyone 18 years of age or older who has access to a motorcycle, joining the organization is far from simple.
First and foremost, all members must submit to a very thorough background check and fingerprinting.
From there, members must attend rigorous training lasting a minimum of 18 months.
Once members have met organization standards and qualifications, they become “patched” members and embark on carrying out the BACA mission.
For an abused child – considered a hero to those in the organization – to become involved with BACA, the first step is contacting the organization’s child liaison. The liaison then verifies the case has been reported, the authorities have been contacted, and the case in being processed within the system.
The liaison then contacts the family and an initial ride is organized to meet the child at their home, or in some other location where the child will feel comfortable. The B.A.C.A. chapter rides to meet the child and he/she is given a vest with a B.A.C.A. patch sewn on the back. The child is free to wear the vest or not, and the organization will support their decision.
The child is also given bumper stickers, and other gifts that are generally donated by the public. These initial visits generally last about 30 minutes.
Following this initial contact, the child is given the name and number of two B.A.C.A. members residing geographically closest to them, who then become the child’s primary contacts. Prior to becoming the primary contacts for the child, the bikers are cleared for participation by passing an extensive background check, have ridden with the Chapter for at least a year, and have received extensive special training. Anytime the child feels scared and feels the need for the presence of his/her new B.A.C.A. family, the child may call upon these bikers to go to the child’s house and provide the necessary reassurance to feel safe and protected.
If and when a child-hero reaches out to their designated contacts, “Dragon” assures response is immediate.
“Then it’s kickstands up,” he adds decisively. “When we are notified, we are riding out to meet that hero no matter what time of day or night. If the weather doesn’t allow us to ride our bikes, we will go to any means necessary to make contact with our hero. Once we make contact, we will remain with our hero until our hero is no longer in fear. Even if it’s a noise they hear or a nightmare, we will stay with them until they are ok.”
B.A.C.A. members and supporters also support the children by: providing escorts for them if they feel scared in their neighborhoods; riding by their homes on a regular basis; supporting the children at court and parole hearings; attending their interviews, and; staying with the children if they are alone and frightened.
B.A.C.A. members never go to the child’s house alone and never without the knowledge or permission of the child hero’s legal guardian. The B.A.C.A. mission is not to be permanently engaged as the child’s power. The BACA mission is to help the children and their families learn how powerful they can be.
Their presence will be available as long as the child needs them. B.A.C.A. also holds other functions for the children such as a summer picnic or holiday party.
Another common activity of BACA members is to appear at court appearances regarding child-heroes.
“The sole purpose for our physical presence is to assist the child in being less intimidated and frightened, and subsequently give an accurate testimony regarding his/her abuse. If the child requests our presence in the courtroom, the parent or guardian for the child must petition the child’s attorney, who then will intercede on behalf of the child to the presiding judge. Absolutely no physical confrontation of the perpetrator will be tolerated by B.A.C.A., and anyone acting in such a manner will be acting outside of the scope of B.A.C.A. and will be held completely and solely accountable for his/her actions. When possible, the two bikers assigned to the child as his/her primary contacts should be in attendance. Given that it is not always possible for the primary contact bikers to be in attendance, a petition may be made to the general membership for their attendance and support. A listing of the court dates and times will be kept and updated on the B.A.C.A. hotline at all times.”
While Northwoods Chapter members admit there is a distinct, strong bond amongst the BACA member ranks, each member also emphasizes their sole focus is the child-heroes they support and empower.
“As an organization, we tend to shy away from press coverage as we strive to focus on our heroes,” Half-Pint adds. “Empowering and supporting our heroes is what is most important to us. That’s what it’s all about, our heroes is why we are here.”
Those interested in learning more about B.A.C.A are asked to visit the organization’s website at http://www.bacaworld.org or contact the Northwoods Chapter at 1-888-806-KIDS(5437) ext.8.
The Merrill Foto News would like to thank the B.A.C.A organization as well as members of the local Northwoods Chapter for their time and assistance in the production of this article.