It is remarkable that Joey Lora is alive, let alone enjoying an active life typical for a 7-year-old boy. Despite having undergone six brain surgeries in which 60 percent of his brain was removed in an attempt to control his life-threatening epileptic seizures, Joey laughs and dances and brags about having just won a basketball game. He aced his spelling test last week.
THIS PAST SATURDAY at the fifth-annual Rock-n-Ride fund-raiser, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts donned leather jackets, strapped on helmets and roared through the Northern Virginia countryside on their Harleys, Hondas and Kawasakis to benefit the Children's Miracle Network and allow other sick kids to be like Joey.
Organized by the RE/MAX Premier Realty group of Fairfax and Dulles and its owner Tom Donegan, this year's riders began at the Fair Oaks District Police Station on Route 50 and were escorted by police on an approximately 100-mile circuit, stopping for activities at The Hill School in Middleburg and the Apple House in Linden and ending at the police station for a community party and police open house.
According to Donegan, a resident of Waverly Crossing in Chantilly, the event has raised more than $100,000 during its first four years and, as he and his cohorts get better at organizing the event every year, he hopes to raise $50,000 this year alone. Most of the money is raised through corporate sponsorships — before the event even began it had generated about $30,000 — though registration fees for the ride, a silent auction featuring sports and entertainment memorabilia, a raffle and food sales also help the effort. Donegan said that all prizes and merchandise were donated, so 100 percent of the money raised would be passed along to CMN and HEROES Inc., a fund for children of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty to which Rock-n-Ride contributes about 10 percent of its proceeds.
Kimberly Lane, the director of Corporate Marketing and the Children's Miracle Network at the Children's National Medical Center in Silver Spring, Md., said that money raised will go to fund care for uninsured children as well as to hospital programs including the Big Apple Clown Care Unit, in which doctors dress up like clowns, and New Horizons, an art therapy program.
“WE TRY to make the hospital environment as much like home as possible to take the kids' minds off of the procedures,” said Lane. “Without events like this we couldn't provide these services.” All of the proceeds from this event will be used locally at the Children's Hospital in the District and its Virginia and Maryland networks.
When asked how this event started, Donegan explained that his Realty offices have a long-standing relationship with the CMN. Agents pledge part of their sales commissions to the organization, and Donegan sponsors a tour of Children's Hospital to allow them to see the children and connect with them. “That way they can see why it's important to raise this money today,” said Donegan.
As they enjoyed the live music performed by WildCard, perused the memorabilia available in the auction and got autographs from Ariana and Shannon of the Redskins Cheerleaders, participants seemed to appreciate the months of planning and hard work undertaken by Donegan, Joe Kurnos and several other volunteers who put the event together. Keith Chase and Jaime Sims of Fairfax, both regulars at this kind of motorcycle rally, praised the Rock-n-Ride as “very well-organized” and deemed it one of the best-run events of its kind. “One, it's a great cause, second, its a great day to ride a motorcycle,” agreed another frequent rider, David Lewis of Chevy Chase, Md. “Anything we can do for the smallest amongst us is a good thing.”
Sandy Lora, Joey's mother, is thankful for the support. She said that Joey receives physical and occupational therapy from Children's Hospital and, despite all the medical procedures and continuing medications, still suffers from seizures. However, his condition is much better than it would be without the care he continues to receive. “He will never live a seizure-free life, but he is living a happy life,” she said.