Taking it to the streets for the March of Dimes

Charity: Hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts gear up for a ride through Harford County.

August 16, 1999|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,SUN STAFF

For years, Gil "Preacher" Bedwell rode motorcycles for the fun of it. On Sunday, he will ride for a good cause.

Bedwell, an ordained minister from Perryman in Harford County, will join more than 500 motorcyclists for the third annual RIDE to raise money for the March of Dimes.

RIDE, a 65-mile scenic trip through Harford County, starting at Bel Air, is a spinoff of the "Bikers for Babies" event that began in Atlanta in 1992.

Supporters can pledge money to the Central Maryland Chapter of the March of Dimes for every mile driven by the biker of their choice.

The combination of motorcycle enthusiasts and babies may seem peculiar, but Bedwell, secretary of the Harford County Chapter of the Chosen Sons Motorcycle Club, says, "A lot of motorcyclists want to do what they can."

He says that motorcyclists are typically stereotyped as "bikers" -- violent, dangerous, unruly -- but adds, "We're not wanting to hurt anybody or do anything wrong." Bedwell notes that about one-third of the Chosen Sons in his chapter are Harford County police officers.

In fact, says Bedwell, 37, participating in RIDE is not the first thing the Chosen Sons have done in the name of charity. They work to help children with cancer and serve dinners to needy families. "This is nothing unusual for us," he says.

Besides the pledges collected by each rider, the Harford Chosen Sons will donate $500 to the March of Dimes.

This will be the first time that Bedwell -- who also works for a company that sells fire-protection systems -- has taken part in RIDE. He heard about last year's RIDE two days before it began, but it was too late to gather the pledges necessary to participate. He did, however, call the March of Dimes, eager to become involved, and says he has attended monthly meetings of the Central Maryland Chapter ever since.

Supporting the March of Dimes, which fights birth defects and infant mortality, is especially important to Bedwell, who lost a child to a birth defect in 1990.

His son died at just one month old of premature lung disease -- a hardening of the lungs that makes breathing nearly impossible.

"I got to hold him while he was dying," Bedwell says. "Just to stand there and hold him was all I could do. I would never want to go through it again, and I would never want to see anyone else go through losing a child."

RIDE takes place Sunday, starting at Jones Junction, on U.S. Route 1 in Bel Air. Registration is at 11 a.m.; the ride begins at noon. It will be followed by a party, with music, refreshments, a motorcycle show and prizes. To make a pledge, or for more information, call 410-752-7990.

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