Ride For A New Life Celebrates 25th Year

Donated $265,000 to date to NICU

February 04, 2016

Ride For A New Life celebrated its 25th year helping the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Penn Highlands DuBois.

It presented its check for $14,500 recently to the NICU, and since 1990, it has brought the NICU $265,000 that is used directly for equipment for the unit or education directly to the new mothers.

Ride For A New Life, also called RFANL, started when various motorcycle groups and civic organizations wanted to do something for newborns of the area. 

The groups decided that a ride which takes participants on a planned route with a dinner at the end site would be fun. It was held in August 1990 and raised around $500.

Over the next few years, ABATE of Jefferson County – as the event’s top sponsor - took the lead on organizing the ride, according to Tom Bogacki, current president of the ABATE of Jefferson County chapter and the ride chairman for the past 17 years. It happened when an ABATE chapter member’s twin daughters were patients in the unit, and everyone saw first-hand what the unit could do.

The NICU cares for the smallest of patients – premature babies and those born with serious problems. Babies as young as 14 weeks early have been in the NICU and lived.

Today, the ride is sponsored by ABATE of Jefferson County, the American Legion Riders Post 17 of DuBois and the Freedom Riders Christian Motorcycle Association of Brookville.

 “It’s about babies – newborn babies,” Bogacki said. “It gives newborns a chance at life so that appeals to motorcyclists,” Bogacki said. “We know 100 percent of what we donate is going right to the equipment or a program for new moms. Babies, veterans, children – they are worthwhile causes and they’ll (bikers) pour their hearts out to and will participate in events and fundraisers for them.”

The NICU has touched many lives. It cares for about 350 babies each year.

“We appreciate all the work that ABATE, the Legion Riders and the Freedom Riders do for Ride For A New Life and our NICU,” Dr. Mohamed Hassan, medical director and neonatologist at the PH DuBois NICU, said. “They have brought so much to us. We have purchased much needed equipment with their help that has saved lives. They also bring awareness and support to our mission which touches us deeply.”

“It is special in my heart,” Bogacki said of the NICU. “My sister had a premature baby. My niece made it 24 hours. They did all they could. That’s why I’ve stuck with it.”

“We’ve seen the equipment up here,” he said. The committee that organizes the ride knows their donations make a difference. No administrative fees are kept by the ride.

“We couldn’t do it alone,” Bogacki said. There are 26 t-shirt sponsors who buy ad space on the back of the shirts. It costs a minimum of $250, but gold-level donors pay $1,000. There were five gold-levels last year. Each sponsor gets a supply of shirts and a plaque. 

Each year, the ride is 125 miles with a set route and recommended stops, Joseph Dixon, vice president of ABATE of Jefferson County and current assistant chairman and treasurer for the ride committee, said. It varies from year to year. 

This past year, RFANL added a scavenger hunt with a list of things people take a picture of with their cell phones. “We try to enhance the ride,” he said.

Registration is between 9-10 a.m. with the ride starting between 11 a.m. and noon. “The ride is family-oriented,” Dixon said. “People drive cars, trucks, bikes – it is open to any motorized vehicle.”

It ended this year at the Veterans of Foreign Wars in DuBois. In the past, it ended at the Lion’s Club Sky Lodge  in DuBois and once at the DuBois American Legion.  “It ends with a dinner. This year, it was catered by Luigi’s Ristorante of DuBois. People like to stay and socialize,” Dixon said. 

They will be doing the same again next year, and they hope for it to be a great experience. The date for the 2016 ride has already been scheduled. It is Aug. 13.

To help kick-off the fundraising, a kick-off event will be held at the Pulaski Club in DuBois on Saturday, Feb. 13. Doors open at 7 p.m. with two bands, Factor 5 at 8 p.m. and Broken at 10 p.m. with food and raffles throughout the night. Cost is $10 per person or $15 per couple.