Friday, December 02, 2005

Love Ride

Want a quick lesson in how to raise funds for a great cause and build your positive buzz?

"They wanted to change the P.R.," says Oliver Shokouh, explaining why Harley-Davidson encouraged "him and other dealers to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, reports Lisa Napoli in The New York Times (11/27/05).

What Harley was suggesting -- a motorcycle marathon for a charity, intended "to show that wearing leather and riding a motorcycle did not mean that someone was a thug" -- has since evolved into something much larger.

This year -- the ride's 18th year -- some 20,000 riders rumbled along the 50 or so miles between Glendale to Castaic Lake, and grossed $1.45 million "in fees from riders and donations from their sponsors."

The ride culminates in a big party and concert, and certainly sounds exciting in itself: "You start shaking," says one participant. "This noise, this roar -- it sounds like an earthquake. The windows of the stores start rattling from the roar of the motorcycles."

The proceeds were distributed not only to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, but to "more than 20 non-profit organizations," including "Reading by 9, a children's literacy group and Special Olympics Southern California.

In other words, what apparently started as a P.R. tactic for Harley has been acquired by the bikers themselves.

"People genuinely gravitate toward each other simply because they ride," says Tom Lindsay of the American Motorcyclist Association. "Then they find out so-and-so has a child and that child has a need, and there's a mutual support and giving back."

The annual event, now known as The Love Ride, , has also spawned "smaller events ... held each weekend all over the country," sponsored by local dealerships.

(I found out about it at

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