JACKSON TWP — The 18th annual Western Pennsylvania Ride for Kids was held Sunday, beginning and ending at Seneca Valley High School with a barrage of 170 motorcycles.
The program, a national series of motorcycle rides that supports the work of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, was primarily held to raise funds, awareness and support to eliminate the challenges of childhood brain tumors.
The foundation's purpose is to fund medical research and family support programs with the intention of raising the survival rates for children who are diagnosed with brain tumors and improving their quality of life as they battle cancer.
Campaign Manager Holly Norton was in charge of helping to pull together this ride in addition to others like it in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and most of New England.
“Sunshine is always a good thing for a ride,” Norton said.
“This was a good way to kick off the first ride of the season.”
Among about 300 participants were 10 stars, or children with brain tumors, who rode with some of the motorcyclists. Seven of the bikes also carried the stars' family members who were interested in joining the ride.
“It's really interesting seeing the amount of people here helping out,” Nick Sepcic, an 18-year-old star, said. “I didn't realize at all that it's this big with all these people so it's really awesome seeing how many people care about it.”
Jaden Henry, 13, said he was enjoying his second year of being a star at the ride.
“I just like to see people having fun,” Jaden said. “I like to see people riding their motorcycles.”
Jaden had surgeries for his brain cancer in 2010 and 2012 and is now in remission along with Sepcic, whose last treatment was in 2013.
“Awareness isn't even close to what it could be,” said Nate Brown, a 16-year-old star who has been out of treatment for four years. Nate also said he was happy “just seeing how many people are here now and knowing that it's going to get so much bigger.”
While Sepcic and Nate were wary of riding motorcycles outside this event, Jaden said he would get a bike one day.
In addition to increasing the number of motorcycles and participants this year, the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation was able to garner almost $25,000 before the day of the ride.
Organizers set their sights on raising $45,000 in total.
Norton said that, at the end of the day, they just wanted to have a “good fundraiser and continued support.”