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Ronald McDonald House Ride made up of many faces

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When asked, the majority of riders stated their number one reason for attending the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) Ride was because it was for a good cause.

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Participants of the ride generated $120,951.83 Saturday, with donations still coming in.

More than 1,000 bikes were seen and the only thing surpassing the uniqueness of the different motorcycles were the many faces of the participants.

First year rider, Robin Morzek, of Montrose, was invited by friends. He had never heard of the ride, but upon being notified brought four tickets, as a donation to the cause, from his place of employment, Nickelodeon Universe, in Bloomington.

As a newcomer, Morzek represented charity amongst charity, which is the real reason behind the ride, apart from the enjoyment of getting out with the wind in your hair.

"A huge heartfelt thanks goes out to all who participated in the Ride and to all those that contributed in any way," Organizer Greg Karvonen said.

Other donations given away during the post-ride ceremony at the VFW were: a 2010 Harley-Davidson won by Mike Dobson of Perham; Dennis Jansen, of Rice, took home the Percy Harvin autographed guitar.

Across the highway, at the NY Mills high school, parents and 150 children participated in the RMH bike rodeo. 1,200 gallons of pop tabs were collected as part of the bike rodeo and 26 pedal bikes were given away to kids who participated in Ronald's bike safety course.

The spirit of giving was not left to just the humans involved in the ride. Ali Mae Wacker, a six-year-old yellow lab and now a three-year veteran of the RMH ride, got to participate with the help of her owner Jewel Wacker, of NY Mills.

"She goes everywhere I go, but she was never able to go when I went riding," Wacker said.

To accommodate her canine friend, Wacker enlisted the help of L&L Fabrication and Steel Company, in Perham, to create a basket on the back of her bike that would safely hold Ali Mae.

Jewel, ironically, a seller of Cookie Lee Jewelry, has participated in every ride but the inaugural and is happy to do it with her enthusiastic pup.

"When the bikes start up, she's ready to go," Wacker said. "She jumps right up on the bike."

Ali Mae and the throng of riders were not dismayed or delayed by the rainy conditions Saturday.

"I come rain or shine," Richard Murphy, of Clitherall, said.

Murphy has a history with people close to him benefiting from Ronald McDonald House charities.

A friend of his had a baby born with heart problems. While being treated, the baby and her family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Fargo.

"I thought about that when I heard about the ride seven years ago and said I'm going to go."

Murphy has been coming back every year joined by Mary Murphy, in her fifth year. Mary's family has also been touched by the generosity of RMH.

"My sister-in-law stayed at RMH and also a first cousin," she said. "It's just wonderful."

The Murphy's do adult foster care at home and look forward to the ride as a brief, but fun reprieve from the vigor of the philanthropy that makes up their daily responsibility to others.

"It's a day to get away," she said.

As the ride gets away from the start at the NY Mills VFW, riders make stops in nearby towns where the contributions keep pouring in.

1,200 hot dogs were devoured in Henning raising $1,880. The community of Henning came together and raised a total of $5,600.86.

"This is the largest contribution to the RMH Ride ever received from any stops made on the ride," Karvonen said.

Coinciding with the spirit of giving, the ride is, what it is, a day to get out on the bikes.

Dan Pearson of Grand Rapids, a first-year participant just bought his first bike in years.

"I haven't had a bike since I was a kid. I came to ride it," he said.

Brothers James and Dan Lenk, of Staples and Motley, respectively, came for similar reasons. James, in his second year at the ride and Dan made his first appearance.

"I'm gettin' him into it," James said.

For whatever reason, if only to get out on the bikes or to assist in raising money for a good cause, one sentiment is rampant and almost exudes from organizers and riders of the Ronald McDonald House Ride. They're into it.

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Robert Williams
Robert has been the Sports Editor for the Focus since 2010 covering multiple state and national championship teams and is a mainstay at state tournaments each season covering the successful, athletic programs of Perham and New York Mills High Schools.
(218) 346-5900 x223
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