“It Takes (More Than) A Village”…. the LA Ride For Autism
Story by Randy Twells; Photos- RT & Jennifer Wicks
The 5th Annual LA Ride For Autism got started at Laidlaw’s Harley-Davidson early the morning of August 4th this year, and even in a busy ride season this was not to be missed for the 300 riders /500+ total people participating. Founders Anthony & Pat Gomez- De La Rosa, and Doug Marrone, have worked tirelessly to make this event happen each year.
Society of Riders volunteers got everyone parked with precision in their various groups. Starting with a continental breakfast, speakers and acknowledgements, Sean Riley, a singer/songwriter who also happens to be Senior VP of Distribution at Fox Networks, a friend of Doug’s for over 17 years, a strong supporter of this ride, started things off as Master of Ceremonies. Greater Los Angeles Girl Scout Troop Volunteers led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Society of Riders President Miguel Gonzalez* presented the award for most registrations by a sportbike club to the Ruff Riders; the cruiser club with the most participants also received an award.
Grand Marshall was actor Dean McDermott, who although not riding a motorcycle due to a disc problem, rode on 4 wheels. And Mr. Laidlaw himself, Big Bob thanked everyone who came to do the ride. Starting at Laidlaw’s, it would be a beautiful laid-back coastal route to the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas.
Reps for key charities that the RFA supports spoke briefly to let the massed biker crowd know how their donations are making a difference, and had more info/staff at the end PARTY at the Sagebrush:
Violette Prentice and her young son, and Moira Giammatteo represented TACA –Talk About Curing Autism. TACA programs include Parent Outreach, Education & Support through over 27 active US chapters. Their Parent Mentor program, Live Chat Service and Parent Support Hotline help in practical ways. TACA’s website www.tacanow.org has a downloadable Autism Journey Guide- also available in paperback- which becomes a parents’ Bible for navigating life with autism. TACA also partners with Autism Cares, assisting families with doctor’s appointments and therapies through the Family Scholarship Program.
A2Z Educational Advocates also at RFA, are attorneys who can help parents who must deal with roadblocks to getting their children the public education they need.
Three Little Words Foundation- I spoke with President Cynthia Gruber who supplied the words: “Help Children Speak.” With speech therapy and various devices like iPads and other means, children with autism can make dramatic improvement at a very young age. Many health insurances however do not cover speech therapy as “not medically necessary”. This group can help parents with insurance issues or therapy costs. Visit www.helpchildrenspeak.org for more info.
Special Guest adult film star Nikki Hunter, donated her time and energy to be here too—signing autographs and taking fun photos with participants—who donated in her name you bet! And then Nikki sang our National Anthem to get us rolling!
In Calabases, riders arrived ready to party at the Sagebrush Cantina, in a beautiful outdoor patio area with several motorcycle vendors near the entrance and a relaxed shaded ambience with a Mexican buffet. The Rebellious Blues Dogs played classic blues and rock, and Sean Riley joined the band singing Eric Clapton’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’ and his own original song “Whiskey and Water”. (Riley’s music is very listenable at www.seanrileytunes.com.)
Many many raffle prizes supplied by sponsors including Lowbrow Customs- full face helmets, a beautiful leather jacket, accommodations packages, merchandise certificates, etc. were won by the generous ticket holders, and a relaxing afternoon with a cold drink and the misted air, was the order of the day.
Then I sat down with Dean McDermott for his comments on the Ride For Autism–
RT- Dean, how did you get involved with Ride For Autism?
Dean: Doug Marrone approached me, he’s one of the founders of the LA Ride For Autism, he knew I was a rider, love to ride and race, and contacted me through my publicist at the time. So we talked on the phone– it’s funny the timing of it, I had just finished working with Jenny McCarthy, and I read her book. Her son is autistic; when I read her book — what the family goes through is tremendous. It’s emotionally draining, it’s physically draining and financially draining.
I’m so blessed to have four healthy children and another one on the way, that I thought it’s my duty to help out where I can, Because I have been blessed with healthy children, I want to help out any way I can, I have been so privileged to be the Grand Marshall for 4 years in a row now so as long as the ride is going I’ll continue to be involved with it.
RT- So, for a long time–.
Dean: I hope so but at the same time I hope not, if we find a cure for it we don’t have to do these rides- so I hope that these rides are short-lived— for the right reasons.
RT- What’s your take on the response from bikers?
Dean: In the crowds I’ve noticed year after year, there are regulars, and a lot of new faces every year which is great – it may sound hokey but it’s a sense of family kind of building around this ride. it’s like a badge of honor to have ridden in the LA Ride For Autism. This year especially I talked to a lot of people whose families are touched by autism, and to hear that all the other foundations that the RFA gives donations to, how it’s helping their families, so it’s really poignant for me this year because I can actually talk to the people that the monies are helping out, and I wanted to convey that to every rider here today, because their donations and their time really is making a difference. So it’s a great sense of family around the LA Ride for Autism.
RT- What would you like to tell all of our Quick Throttle readers right now?
Dean: The statement I would like to make is, or maybe more like a Challenge if you will, is to families with healthy children to get involved, count your blessings, and help out any way you can. Because it takes a village to raise a child but it takes a lot MORE than a village to raise an autistic child. So I think other parents should get involved. We can find a cure for this and we can help families in need. I heard a story of a family, their son was diagnosed with autism, and their health ins ran out, he lost his job— how horrible, I couldn’t imagine being in that position! But through the monies raised through the LA Ride for Autism we are able to help that family. So to anybody out there–low income, high income, get involved— Every nickel counts.
RT- What are some problems that you see that families of autistic children face?
Dean: Some health insurance policies do not cover treatment for Autism because it’s mainly speech therapy and, Speech therapy is not covered under many health ins policies, as not ‘medically necessary’, but it’s THE one thing that improves the lives of autistic children.
RT- What can we do about this?
Dean: Insurance companies have got to get their act together; they seem to change their policies as they see fit for themselves. So the health insurance situation has got to change.
RT– So our dear readers: Bottom line, Dean’s message is that by working together, as a group, we can bring about change for the better.
The 2012 LA Ride For Autism results of donations and pledges plus expense reports are still coming in, but it’s on track with results last year—so organizers are projecting net results of about $35K.
As of press time, Dean and his lovely wife Tori Spelling have been blessed with the birth of their new baby boy Finn. We wish them a healthy happy life, and we know Dean will be all the more determined to continue his support for the LA Ride For Autism so that all of us together can be “more than” that village, we can support one another and find the cure. Next year, August 3, 2013. For more info visit www.rideforautism.org
*Footnote: Miguel Gonzalez/SOR President, in his 9 to 5 life is a Realtor with Philanthropy Realtors; Philanthropy’s policy: “20% of the proceeds from every closed transaction will go to your favorite charity.” –and that’s a minimum %, often up to 40% I’m told. Beneficiaries would include Ride For Autism and the charities it supports. We say, Congratulations on a very good business policy.