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Ride makes four Dreams for Kids come true

Joe Bowen/FOCUS The 2013 Dreams for Kids motorcycle ride was held last Saturday in Perham, raising enough money to grant the wishes of four local children. Pictured here is one of them, Paige Johnson, second from left, with her mother Chasity, father Rick and sister Mylinda. Paige was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago, but will be celebrating one year cancer-free this Saturday -- her 10th birthday. The Johnsons took a trip to Walt Disney World with the money raised through the ride.

The eighth annual Dreams for Kids Bike Run  on Saturday raised more than $25,000 to grant the wishes of four local children.

Working with Make-A-Wish Minnesota, Dreams for Kids has raised more than $180,000 over the past eight years, according to organizer Wanda Smith. That money is used to grant wishes to kids with life-threatening, but not necessarily terminal, illnesses.

“Dreams for Kids is a community group affiliated with us. They have taken their role to a higher level than most event organizers because they’ve taken to representing this part of the state,” said Make-A-Wish Minnesota Events Coordinator Jean Carlson on Saturday.

Local sponsors, including KLN Family Brands and Arvig, donated thousands of dollars to the cause this year.

The event featured a motorcycle ride through several towns in the Perham area, a silent auction, barbeque dinner, raffle, and music from Willie and the Poor Boys, who played to dozens of attendees and riders.

One of this year’s wish grantees was Paige Johnson, who was diagnosed with a desmoid tumor in February of 2012.

“Two in one million people have it,” said Chasity Johnson, Paige’s mother.

After extensive chemotherapy treatments, doctors were able to remove the tumor last summer, on Paige’s ninth birthday.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation, using money raised by Dreams for Kids, granted Paige’s wish, sending her, her sister Mylinda, and Rick and Chasity to Walt Disney World last year.

On Paige’s 10th birthday, this Saturday, she’ll be celebrating one year of being cancer free.

“This year we’re really going to celebrate,” Chasity said.

“We celebrated last year, too,” Rick added with a grin.

Chasity said that Make-A-Wish is “an amazing foundation, an amazing group of people. With us, we spent a week at Disney World care-free. It was an amazing experience for us and the girls. It was the cherry on top of a really horrible year.”

A high percentage of Dreams for Kids’ fundraising is thanks to Paul Buendiger, who has collected thousands of dollars in donations for his cross-country motorcycle rides.

His first ride, in 2011, tallied more than 2,000 miles and accrued approximately $7,500 in donations.

“Last year, they asked this aging Polish guy, ‘What’s bigger than two?’ He said, ‘Four.’ So I went 4,000 miles in five days,” Buendiger said, jokingly referring to himself.

That ride raised $14,500 dollars.

That year, his third, he rode even further and raised another $7,000 for Dreams for Kids, and that alone funded one wish, he said.

“This year I rode my bike from home to Lake Michigan, by Chicago, Jacksonville, Fla., Gulf Port, Miss., San Diego and back in eight days,” he said after finishing his ride with other Dreams for Kids cyclists.

“I don’t know about doing it next year,” he said, “I’m getting older; I’m no spring chicken.”

He quickly added, however, that if his health and finances – he spends none of the donated money on himself or his ride, which can cost $1,000 in gas alone – hold out, he will probably ride again next year.

Another wish recipient was on hand to read off the results of the raffle in-between songs.

After announcing several gift card winners, Nathan Johnson explained that his wish was for a laptop computer and to get his grandfather’s old tractor fixed.

Both happened last Aug. 29, he said, when a group from Make-A-Wish and Dreams for Kids showed up at his family’s farm.

The only person who knew the surprise was coming was his mother.

Nathan said, “I got a laptop, printer…”

“…and pizzas!” Smith interjected with a smile.

“And beverages!” Nathan added enthusiastically.

“A lot of these guys (the bikers) ride a charity every week,” Smith said appreciatively, gesturing toward the crowd as they munched on barbeque Saturday. “They work the week to ride a charity.”