Thanks to an overwhelmingly generous response from local business and organizations, a local couple’s inspiration to organize a fundraising event to benefit a local non-profit organization, is on deck to become a reality.
The 1st Annual Community New Year Ride to Empower Abused Children, a planned 100-mile snowmobile ride, poker run and raffle to benefit local Northwoods Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (B.A.C.A) is set for January 28.
As co-organizer Jeremy Ratliff explains, the inspiration behind the event is locally rooted.
“I first learned about BACA and the relatively new Merrill-based Northwoods chapter this past summer, when I had the opportunity to meet with chapter administration as well as several members. The more I learned about their organization and what they do, the more interested I became,” he explains.
“Their sole reason for existence is to empower abused children to not live in fear of the world in which they live. They are very humble and passionate about their cause and mission, their passion is very contagious.. From that very first meeting I found myself compelled to want to do something, anything to help their cause.
“I don’t have a motorcycle so the option of joining as a member was out, but I knew I wanted to do something. I just wasn’t sure what.
Then last fall, Ratliff joined other community and Northwoods B.A.C.A chapter members for ‘Rosco’s Ride, a 135-mile motorcycle ride through Lincoln, Langlade and Forest counties to benefit and raise awareness for the local chapter.
It was that event, of which directly inspired the upcoming snowmobile ride.
“Rosco and his wife ‘Rabit’ (B.A.C.A members use ‘road names’ rather than their true identities due to the organization’s mission and possible circumstances members could face at any time) have been good friends of my wife Jenny and I since we moved here,” Jeremy adds.
“I credit Rosco for my first exposure to BACA. So when I first heard he was organizing this ride, I was pretty excited to learn I could still follow along in my personal vehicle even though I don’t own a bike. I’ve never been on a motorcycle ride first off and I was curious to see what the experience would be like to actually ‘ride’ with B.A.C.A members.
“It turned out to be a lot of fun. At the end of the ride we came back to DAT Bar on the city’s west side, held a raffle, had dinner and so on. It was a great time and I got another dose of just how passionate these folks are about what they do. I was inspired. I really don’t know how anyone could not be inspired by this organization.”
A few weeks following the ride, Ratliff first dropped the idea of a similar ride.
“Rosco and I were just sitting around one night BS’ing and I asked him if B.A.C.A had a snowmobile division,” he explains with a chuckle.
“Rosco just looked at me and laughed as he usually does when I come up with crazy ideas and told me no. Then I mentioned an idea off the top of my head about doing something similar to ‘Rosco’s Ride’ but a snowmobile ride instead, along with a raffle and so on.
“Rosco just kinda chuckled and told me if I could put it together, he would find a sled and ride along. This was back in October and not much was really said about it since then by either of us.”
That is until late November when while sorting through some old papers, Ratliff came across a rough draft of a flyer of which he had sketched out some information for the prospective ride.
“After initially talking myself out of it, I figured the worst that could happen is there wouldn’t be anyone interested. I talked it over with my wife and we decided to go for it. Since DAT Bar was very involved in ‘Rosco’s Ride’, we stopped over to talk with owners Dennis and Traci to see if they would be interested in hosting our similar event. They not only seemed pretty excited but offered to help us any way they could.”
Upon drawing up a new flyer and making copies, Jeremy and wife Jenny hit the donation trail after the holidays, passing out flyers, stopping in to local businesses and meeting with local organization heads.
“The response has just been freaking amazing!” Jeremy adds.
“Like I said before, I was fully prepared to be told no or just find a complete lack of interest being this sort of event didn’t appear to be very common. But what we found was really the exact opposite. We didn’t really have to explain much about the cause or really explain anything at all for that matter. We just basically explained the event being a snowmobile ride to benefit the local chapter of a wonderful organization. Many were already aware of B.A.C.A, or knew someone who knows about B.A.C.A. Everyone we met was more than happy to help out any way they could.”
Within the first week, the couple had secured well over $1,000 in cash and raffle prize donations.
“I think the reality of just how supercharged the level of community support was for what we were doing, set in one night when we stopped in to the Snow Shack here on the outskirts of town.
“Jenny and I walked in and showed the manager our flyer. He glanced it over and before we really had a chance to say much more, he asked us to wait a moment and walked into the back room of the store.
“When he returned, he was carrying this gigantic box he could barely see over the top of. He then set it down in front of us and asked us “will this help?”
What the couple found inside was nearly $1,000 worth of snowmobile gear including 4 brand new jackets and a variety of hats and snowmobile gloves.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Jenny adds.
“We were hoping for maybe a gift certificate or something, anything…we definitely were not expecting that! I think we were both in shock at first.”
“The manager shook my hand, thanked us for what we were doing and told us he was glad to help. That was that” Jeremy adds.
Since then, the cache of donations has now surpassed the $2,000 mark with generous assistance from the Merrill Police Benevolent Association, Merrill Fire Fighters Local 847, Devils Creek Stump Jumpers Snowmobile Club, KB Auto Body, Dawn Wolfe Photography, John’s Home Care courtesy of John and Kim Kaufman and the AmericInn of Merrill; courtesy of General Manager Ernie Stender; just to name a few.
“Our list of sponsors and donors is literally growing each week. We are continuing to pursue and accept donations right up to the day of the ride. We will then sort everything into raffle or gift baskets and raffle them off the night of the ride. We will also be awarding cash prizes for the top three hands of the poker run. We cannot even begin to express our appreciation and sheer amazement for the generosity of the Merrill community.”
After sifting through several ideas for a title to the event, the overwhelming community response suddenly made the proper title for the ride obvious.
“We decided it was a perfect fit. After all, it is really the Merrill community which is behind this. Jen and I are just the middle men really. I’ve lived in quite a few places before settling in Merrill and I don’t think I have ever seen a more generous community. Citizens and businesses alike really rally around a cause and they go all in. Whether you are a neighbor in need or organizing a fund raiser like this event, this community will have your back. There are so many words I could use to describe it, it’s just amazing,” Jeremy said.
“We especially would like to thank Dennis and Traci Fick, owners of DAT Bar, for their generosity and hospitality in hosting the raffle and dinner the night of the ride. They have been so helpful and encouraging through the entire process, They have even gone a step further by having a bonfire and live music the night of the ride. Dennis and Traci are two of the most generous people you will ever meet. We couldn’t be doing this without them.”
“Bikers Against Child Abuse is a non-profit organization registered as a 501 (c ) (3)” states Northwoods B.A.C.A chapter Vice-President ‘Half Pint’
“All of our generous donations go directly to our mission of empowering abused children to not be afraid of the world in which they live. We use these funds for numerous facets of empowerment. Be it a therapy fund for our heroes, support of our mission with their vests, stuffed moose, and proper training to ensure the empowerment of our heroes. 100% of all donations are directly utilized for the children.”
In terms of the stuffed moose Half Pint mentions; a stuffed moose or bear are brought along during meetings between B.A.C.A members and the children they assist aka ‘Child Heroes’.
During the meetings, the bear or moose are passed around to the child heroes as well as the members for hugs.
“We tell our child heroes we are filling the stuffed animals with hugs, so that when they feel alone or afraid, they can hug the stuffed animal and in turn feel all of us there with them.”
Half Pint, as well as other Northwoods Chapter members will be on hand the night of Jan.28 to serve dinner to participants and answer any questions. Half Pint also plans to give a brief presentation as to the mission and activities of the organization.
*For more information on the ‘Community New Year Ride to Empower Abused Children’ including registration information, donation information and updates, feel free to visit them on Facebook at Facebook.com/Sledding4TheKids’ or call 715-722-0381. E-mail inquiries are also welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on Bikers Against Child Abuse, please visit http://bacaworld.org.
Please note: this event is not sanctioned, sponsored by or in any way organized by BACA but an event to support and assist B.A.C.A in fulfilling their mission of providing a safer environment for abused children