Hundreds of motorcyclists showed off their custom bikes and fancy artwork during the Ride for Sight fundraising campaign, June 21, at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.
The purpose of the fundraiser is to bring awareness on the issues people with sight impairment have and to bring as many dollars as possible to research a cure.
Ride for Sight organizers feel Ponoka is an ideal central Alberta location for many bikers and they hope to keep coming back each year.
Director Steve West said many of the bikers who fundraise for the organization know someone, either directly or indirectly, with sight impairments. Those who raise funds for the Alberta Ride for Sight branch know where their money is going.
“The money raised in Alberta comes back to Alberta,” said West.
The Universities of Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge all receive money directly from Ride for Sight. West said the organization is run completely by volunteers. “We’re very proud to be able to say that.”
Bikers were asked for a minimum $50 donation to take part in the activities and they could also campaign over the Internet. There were bike games, challenges and an awards supper to complete the day.
One rider is proud to have been with the organization for many years. David Messier has first hand experience of his son who had challenges with his eyes at a young age.
“We’ve been taking him for eye surgery since he was three years old,” said Messier.
His son is 19-years-old now and has just been told he does not need glasses anymore. Messier sees Ride for Sight as an opportunity to give back and he has been involved for 10 years.
Some bikers just enjoy being part of a group that is trying to bring some benefits to a good cause. Bud Rockwell first joined many years ago and each year has been raising money for the group.
“I started 25 years ago I guess, and missed one of 25 years,” explained Rockwell.
Vendors have found innovative ways to raise the awareness for people with sight impairment. Mike Hambly, owner of BrailleIT with a booth at the event, has created a Braille printing press that imprints Braille on business cards.
Hambly lost his sight in 1994 due to a car accident in which he also broke his back. The accident changed his life completely but did not stop Hambly from moving forward.
Groups such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Foundation Fighting Blindness helped him realize he could move on with his life. He created BraileIT and hasn’t regretted the decision once.
“We started off just by brailling business cards,” said Hambly.
Since then the business has expanded into different products such as Beeping Frisbees and Talking Watches to help individuals with sight impairment. Hambly says his customers are looking at ways to open up conversations about issues with blindness and he says it is a great marketing tool.
West says the Alberta chapter raised $70,000 last year and Ride for Sight Canada raised more than $700,000.