Southern Alberta Bikers launch online fundraiser for children at Chinook Regional Hospital

Despite the pandemic, a group of bikers in southern Alberta hit the road on Saturday for Motorcycle Awareness Month, riding across the region in small groups to celebrate the occasion.

“We still like to get together with five or ten other people, go for a little ride,” said Southern Alberta Bikers member Harvey Koetse.

“We can’t stop at a restaurant anymore, so it’s not like it used to be.”

Each year, Southern Alberta Bikers raise money at the beginning of the May for their motorcycle awareness and teddy bear parade, riding across the city of Lethbridge.

The gathering usually consists of 100 to 200 bikers, who donate to the child life services department at Chinook Regional Hospital.

However, with COVID-19 affecting all mass gatherings in the province this time around, they had to switch gears.

“What we came up with is basically what I would call a virtual reality poker run,” Dallas Harty, the president of the group, said. “They actually e-transferred their entry fees for the event.”

Participants would pay a $20 entry fee to participate, with a portion going into the poker pool, and another into the donation fund.

Double the amount of people participated in this virtual event than the in-person one from last year, according to the group’s vice president Michael Fick.

By Sunday morning, they had raised over $1,700 in donations to the department, which Harty says is often overlooked.

“They look after helping make life for the younger children in the hospital a little more enjoyable,” he said.

“The joy that we get from doing this for them is phenomenal.”

During non-pandemic circumstances, the group would end the event by taking all the teddy bear and toy donations into the foyer at the hospital to present them to the patients and staff.

Since health guidelines bar the group from doing so, they hopped on their bikes and did a parade around the hospital to salute front-line workers.

“What better way to acknowledge them and thank them… We’re all out riding anyways, we might as well do a bit of an honor ride.”

Some bikers have also been attending to requests for birthday party parades.

The cheque will be presented later this week, as Harvey says more donations are still coming in.

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