John and James Baker are going to open both the throttle and their hearts this summer.
On Aug. 1, the father-son duo will embark on a 36-day, 8,150-kilometre journey across Canada on their Harley Davidsons to raise funds and spread awareness about autism. Their campaign is called Bikers for Autism, and their goal is to raise $100,000.
“I think it’s good to set your sights high,” said James, 29. “If we get the attention we’re looking for, I’d love for Bikers for Autism to be its own entity.”
Their inspiration is four-year-old Jude, John’s great-nephew, who has high-functioning autism. Jude’s mother, Kim Dragseth, has recently started a behavioural centre in Osoyoos, and proceeds from the ride will be split between the centre and Autism Speaks Canada.
“For me, it was one of those things,” James said. “We’ve been talking about riding across Canada on motorbikes since I was a young boy, and a light bulb just went off. We’ve done fundraisers for Jude over the last couple of years, and it just made sense that we could make this a bigger event and shine some more light on autism awareness.”
James describes Jude as an outgoing, creative and energetic little boy.
“The scary thing is one in every 88 children are affected by autism spectrum disorder, and boys are four times more likely to develop it,” he said.
During their ride, James and John, 60, will ride up to 300 to 400 kilometres per day.
“We’re going to be fighting the elements; there’s going to be rain, bugs, truckers, people trying to run you over, the normal stuff bikers have to deal with,” John said. “We’re going to be a little tired and banged up by the time we get there, but it’s going to be all good.”
John, who has lived in Ladysmith since 1979, said he is looking forward to meeting up with family along the way, especially in Newfoundland, where he is from. James, who was born and raised in Ladysmith, will also have the opportunity to meet some of his relatives for the first time.
Fundraising events such as hot dog sales, live music functions and rallies are being set up in destinations across Canada to help build the momentum toward that $100,000 goal.
“I think it’s going to gain a lot of speed as we go across Canada,” James said.
He is also hoping to get Harley Davidson on board as a sponsor and host a few fundraising events at retailers along the way.
A pre-ride event, the first annual Bikers for Autism charity golf tournament, will take place July 14 at Ladysmith Golf Course. The $50-per-team fee includes 18 holes of golf and a barbecue burger and beverage. For information, call 250-245-7313 or e-mail Anne Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special live music fundraiser is also happening July 22 at the Shark Club in Vancouver, where James now works as general manager. Tickets are available for $12 here.
John, who has had to put the cross-Canada father-son ride off for the past decade due to work, says both riders are more than ready to ride.
“I’m looking forward to getting the show on the road,” he said. “I wish we could be leaving sooner.”
To follow the Bakers’ journey, find them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.