Forty-six soaking wet motorcycle enthusiasts spent four hours covering 200 kilometres of back roads between Langley and Mission on Sunday, all riding to raise money for muscular dystrophy and a Langley boy who has become an unofficial spokesperson for the disease.
Langley’s Doug Penner, 15, was harnessed in on the back of his father’s bike for the 12th annual Ride for Doug charity event held in the rain Sunday afternoon. And, despite all the wet stuff, Doug rode start to finish and had an absolute blast – despite literally being drenched.
“I enjoy this event more than my own birthday,” said Doug, who was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy at age two.
He hasn’t missed a ride since its inception, and once again addressed the crowd afterwards, thanking each of the participants for their help raising money for the cause.
“Keep up the good work you are making both my muscles and my wheels move,” said Doug.
His father and ride founder Cam Penner explained that about $16,000 was raised from this year’s ride – $10,000 earmarked for Muscular Dystrophy Canada and another $6,000 to kick off the Penner family’s quest to modify a vehicle and make it accessible for Doug – who has recently graduated to a power chair.
“My first choice is a car that will run 10 seconds in the quarter at Mission,” Doug half joked, elaborating further his quest for a vehicle he too can drive – after all he’s nearing his 16th birthday (in just 98 days from the ride) and will be of legal age to drive more than his wheelchair.
“A reasonable accessible vehicle will help me gain the freedom that some of my classmates already have. I’ll be able to unload my chair, and keep up with them wherever we go,” Doug explained.
Perseverance through the wet
Looking out over the South Langley Church parking lot at the 38 bikes, 46 riders, and dozens of volunteers who turned out for this year’s Ride for Doug, Penner said: “These riders came out because they know that muscular dystrophy doesn’t take rain days… And, if that means getting more than a little bit wet, then that’s the price to pay.”
There were a few harrowing and similarly meaningful moments throughout the day, but one in particular struck Penner.
He was transported back to the early days, when he and his wife Allison first learned of Doug diagnosis. On Sunday, Penner met up with a childhood friend and learned that his preschool-aged child had just been given a muscular dystrophy diagnosis in the past few weeks.
“I recognize the look of shell shock on their face,” Penner said, glad that by being part of Ride for Doug, his buddy was able to see one of the upsides of the disease.
“They don’t have to do it alone. Community still exists. People still care. And the harder that life seems to put you down, the more kindness from others you get to experience. I hope that our experience can help theirs go a little bit smoother,” Penner said.
“One of the things that makes Ride For Doug so special is that it isn’t just for Doug,” Dad elaborated. “It’s for all the families who are dealing with this.”
The rain did cause a few issues on the road, Penner admitted.
The first rainfall after a dry period (like May) brings all the oil dripped on the road to the surface, and traction was a concern for the first couple of hours of the ride.
Potholes filled with water hid their depth, and the tar snakes across the road caused wheels to slither and slip when leaned over in a corner, Dad expanded.
“There’s nothing more unnerving to a biker than to be leaned over in a corner and have your tires slip six inches to one side,” he recounted.
The rain took its toll on equipment, too. Three bikes dropped out by the first stop due to mechanical issues.
“Fortunately, a long time RFD sponsor (Sea to Sky Motorsports) provided a breakdown trailer and driver, so nobody was left behind,” Penner said.
“Many bikers don’t mind bringing rain gear along, just in case it rains while they are out. But to ask them to show up when it is already raining, and the forecast calls for the four-hours of the ride to be the wettest four hours in a month? That takes a special kind of crazy,” Penner added.
“But show up they did. Ride For Doug 2018 (Wet For Doug 2018?) saw some of the most dedicated supporters of any year… It takes more than a bit of rain to dampen the spirits at Ride For Doug,” Dad said.
“Ride For Doug 2018 may not have had the numbers that prior years have. But RFD has never been about the numbers. Life with muscular dystrophy is not a sprint, but rather a long hard marathon. Ride For Doug is about building and leaning on that team of supporters. Years like this one – where the rain pellets of life fly directly into your face – show how deep your roots go. And for that, I am always grateful.”