I was waiting for the bus to take me to registration on Friday night, when I it heard it again. “I love this event. It’s so well organized.” That was the third time in less than thirty minutes I had heard that exact comment.
Well organized is only one of the reasons that the Mothers for Daughters ride has grown from 88 riders five years ago to over 400 this year. The event is also fun and raises money for breast and ovarian cancer research -- a cause that has personally affected many of the participants.
Mothers for Daughter is a three day event held each May in West Dover, Vermont. This year, the event was May 18 through 20.
The event begins on Friday evening, with check-in and dinner at a restaurant of your choice. Shuttle buses, hired for the event, run a continuous loop that includes the ten participating lodging accommodations, the registration venue and West Dover restaurants. The shuttles make it easy to meet people and find a restaurant, all without worrying about riding at night or after a beer at dinner.
Check-in and registration is a microcosm of the event’s endearing qualities. At their lodging check-in, attendees receive an information packet with a schedule, waiver and important information. When they arrive at registration, they already know where to go and what to expect. Warm smiles greet each rider. No one is ever lost, wondering where to be to enjoy the fun.
Sharon Alves, of Nashau’s Gate City HOG chapter is the ride’s chief organizer. She is a cancer survivor whose bountiful energy and enthusiasm make each participant feel welcomed and happy. Her obvious love of life and customer service attitude inspires the fifty volunteers who run the event to match her level of service and warmth.
Saturday is the main event, with the ride during the day and the awards dinner, party and dancing on Saturday night.
“The thing I like about this is they actually ride,” said Shawn, a Goldwing rider from Southwick MA. “It’s not like some rides where you’re constantly stopping.”
Pink bike decorated for the ride
This year’s ride -- a 130 mile loop through Vermont and New Hampshire – was organized by Stu Hazen and Ralph Lloyd. Hazen and Llyod scout the route and manage the twenty-five road captains who work the ride. The weekend before, the road captains ride the route, looking for dangerous road conditions and tricky intersections. They pre-ride the route again on the Thursday making sure nothing has changed.
The day of the ride, bikes stage in groups of forty. Riders decorate their bikes in pink leis, oversized brassieres and pink breast cancer ribbons. Some are wearing costumes, vying for one of the coveted spirit awards, given at the Saturday night party.
Groups are spaced twenty minutes apart and led at a good pace. The route includes shady, 35-45 mph country roads through villages, stretches of higher- speed, 50 mph roads, beautiful Vermont scenery and few traffic lights.
There is a stopping point after forty miles for gas and restrooms. Port-o-lets setup at the rest stop ensure little waiting and a fast return to riding. After another forty miles, the ride stops for a BBQ lunch in downtown Bellow’s Falls.
After lunch, the ride returns to West Dover with enough time for riders to relax at their lodging before dinner and the evening party.
How It Began
When Sharon Alves learned she had stage-two breast cancer she was a single mother with a 19 year old daughter. “The whole world falls out from the bottom,” she said. “You wonder if you can handle it. Mainly, it’s hard to face your kids.”
Giving up isn’t Sharon’s way. “You have to deal with it,” she said. Using her daughter as motivation, she fought the cancer, underwent a mastectomy and persevered. She recovered and returned to motorcycling.
In 2007, Sharon was staying at the Gray Ghost Inn in West Dover with her HOG group. Magnus Thorson, owner of the Gray Ghost overheard one of the HOG members raising money for a breast cancer walk that Sharon was walking in. Moved to help, Magnus pulled aside Sharon and another member of the HOG group, Bob O’Keefe (Bob’s uncle died from breast cancer) and proposed the event. The next year, the ride was born. With ninety percent of the riders returning each year, it has grown every year since.
Raising Money and Having Fun
Many people do their part to make Mothers for Daughters successful. Working with Sharon as directors for the event are Bob O'Keefe and Carina Thorsson. Bob handles Sales and Marketing and Carina -- owner of the Gray Ghost Inn -- coordinates resources for the Dover area.
Sharon gives a lot of credit to the volunteers who work the event. She singled out Val DiPietro as one of her biggest aids. “Val is my sounding board,” Sharon said.
The inns and lodges of West Dover play an important role. “We couldn’t do this without the help of the inns,” said Mark Lambert, a Road Captain from Gate City HOG. The ten participating inns agree to a fix room rate for the weekend and donate 20% of revenues back to the cause. The innkeepers also donate their own time, working the Saturday evening dinner, waiting and bussing tables.
The spirit of the event motivates individuals to do extraordinary things. Mike Monahan is an excellent example. Mike is a long-haul trucker. At the 2011 event, he pledged a penny a mile for every mile he drove between 2011 and 2012. This year’s he presented a check for $1,008 to Bob O’Keefe. “He’s just a fantastic person – he and his wife Michelle both are,” Sharon said.
Bob O'Keefe, Mike Monahan, Sharon Alves, Michelle Monahan
The money goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. “We looked at it extensively and chose them because 85 cents of every dollar goes into research,” Sharon said. She said that it is too early to know the number for this year, but it is expected to be higher than the $28,000 raised in 2011.
“My hope is that someday we’ll be able to come here and celebrate that they have found a cure for this disease,” said Sharon.
In the mean time, Mothers for Daughters will focus on making people happy and working for the cause – something they do very well.
Prevent, Support, Survive & Thrive