By: Renee “Belt Drive Betty” Charbonneau
In 2005 Wayne Brand, a Marathon Ontario rider, crashed his motorcycle with his step daughter on the back. She suffered some pretty bad injuries and went through some surgeries, but for the most part, she’s doing well these days.
Wayne on the other hand struggles with partial paralysis, short term memory loss (although his long term memory is crystal clear) and was moved into long term care in the Marathon Hospital a number of years ago.
I was contacted in mid August by an organization called Wish of A Lifetime Canada. They have an American parent office in Colorado for their US wishes and a Canadian branch in Toronto for Canadian wishes.
They had been Google searching motorcycling to see if they could find a partner that could help make a Senior’s wish come true. (Wish of A Lifetime has a group of employees who support making wishes for Seniors come true.) Our seniors are more and more isolated, often times they have little or no family close by, and therefore very little socialization. The mission of Wish of A Lifetime is to enrich the lives of seniors by reconnecting them with others of like mind and their own passions, helping get them out of the house, out of the hospital and helping them regain that sense of purpose, of life force, helping to enjoy life again.
Shannon, the co-ordinator I was to end up working with explained Wayne Brand’s story to me and asked if I thought I could help them.
I said “No, I don’t think I can, I know I can.”
I asked Shannon to give me 4 hours, and after a number of phone calls, I had John and Jean Rose of Marathon Legion (both avid riders) willing to help us in the task of hosting a poker run.
Turns out that Wayne is a member of their Legion. They also found a gent with a side car, and because of an engine failure, Excalibur Motorcycle Works Ltd. in Thunder Bay sent a complete stranger out on his Ural side car to ensure Wayne would go to his party in style!
I also had the help, guidance and support of Ted, Jessica and the whole crew at Thunder Bay Harley-Davidson.
I went back to Shannon with what had been accomplished in the course of an afternoon and she was thrilled. Over the next few weeks, Jean and John Rose of the Marathon Legion worked their CANS off, getting the word out to the regional riders, all of the Legions on the route and getting a penny auction and BBQ set up for the day of the event, September 22nd, 2018.
I created posters, reached out to riders and Thunder Bay Harley-Davidson reached out and printed posters.
I flew into Thunder Bay on the 21st of September and friends from the Superior Riders, Dave and Violet Alderdice who live in Kakabeka Falls just outside of T-Bay, agreed to pick me up, put me up and put up with me for the next three days!
It was so good to reconnect with these two, I gotta tell you I love them big time!
They are just the sweetest, kindest people in the world.
Anyway, on Friday I was apparently supposed to join the HOG chapter for lunch, but I misread the email and thought it was for dinner time, so we headed in to pick up the motorcycle I was to be riding and I found out I had let the HOG Chapter down.
I felt like crap. Ted and his girlfriend decided we’d make up for the missed meal by going out to a local hotel for a meal with myself and Dave and Vi.
The weather in Thunder Bay was turning cold and rain was forecast for the day of the event. Sigh, Mother Nature has played havoc with a whole lot of fundraiser this season. I had gotten Dave to take me to Canadian Tire BEFORE I had picked up the Sport Glide (A FUN little bike) where I proceeded to buy $35 worth of Hot Shots for my feet, hands and core.
GOOD THING I DID.
We got up bright and early on Saturday, and I headed into the dealership so I could get some interviews done. Dave and Vi would ride in on their Goldwing a little later.
I interviewed Jim, the gent who made sure that the Sport Glide I was going to be riding was good to go…he’s quite the character!
I also interviewed Katie and Ted for Facebook Live. Despite the cold weather, and it was cold 4 degrees, we still had 10 bikes show. Ted the owner decided that with all his obligations, he’d be better of driving the chase vehicle and he let me ride his Road Glide, a 2018 with 5,800 K on it…OH I WANT ONE….so bad….what a gorgeous machine.
Anyway, we headed out knowing that we were stopping every hour and we road literally, one hour at a time. When we got into Nipigon, our first stop, the smell of home made perogies fried onions was the smell that assailed us. I had to buy a dozen to take back to Dave and Vi’s to add to dinner on Sunday!
The Nipigon Legion pulled out all the stops! Donuts, coffee and hugs, lots of hugs.
It was cold and over cast, but I think we all felt the same, it was worth it to be cold, we were looking forward to making a man’s day…We pulled into Schriber to be met by at least another 15 bikes! Again, the Legion was warm and inviting with free coffee!
The pack headed out to the Marathon Hospital, there Jean and John had arranged for a side car to meet us there and we planned on bringing Wayne to the Marathon Legion in the side car.
Once at the Legion, there was BBQ burgers and hot dogs, french fries and beverages. All free to the rider.
I interviewed John and Jean and some of the riders who participated and then I got to interview Wayne and Barb. His words say it best – “Listening to those bikes coming up and then the stop right in front of the hospital, my heart started pounding, I got weak in the knees, it’s been just a super day.”
I wanted to stay overnight as had been originally planned and take in the band and the rest of the festivities, but the forecast for rain and howling winds was even worse for Sunday than they were for Saturday night and so back the Thunder Bay we went, and freeze, OMG I haven’t been that cold and wet in a long time.
Thank goodness for the Hot Shots which I shared freely. We made it back in one piece, soaked through the rain gear, and frozen to the bone, but we did it.
It was such an honour to be a part of Wayne’s wish coming true and I just hope and pray that now that the community knows this man misses them, that they remember to stop in and spend some time with him.
I can’t thank Thunder Bay Harley-Davidson: Ted, Jessica, Jim, Katie and the gang, the great folks from the Marathon Legion: Jean and John for all their hard work to bring the other Legions on board and to set up the BBQ, the Penny Auction etc…
Because of their efforts and the support of the North western Ontario Motorcycle Community a local man won $600 on the poker run and just over $1000 went to Wish of A Lifetime Canada to help more Canadian Seniors get a wish…
WHAT AN HONOUR – thank you Wish of A Lifetime Canada for Reaching out to me!