Riding for Research: Honda Fundraises for Child Brain Tumor Treatment

Thirty-six-year-old Michelle Higa, a brain tumor survivor and the first recipient of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF) Scholarship Award, stood before more than 300 bikers at the 28th annual Ride for Kids in LA, the longest-running and most successful motorcycle ride charity event in the nation, to thank participants for coming out and emphasize the importance of funding for brain tumor research.

“Because of all of you, I went to college,” said Higa, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor as a child and survived, but not without lasting effects. While undergoing chemotherapy, Higa experienced partial hearing loss. She explained that since she was diagnosed and treated, medical research has led to a new drug created to counter hearing loss for kids undergoing the same chemotherapy. “Through your efforts, there are now new treatments and better drugs. We’re here today because of all of you.”

This year’s Los Angeles Ride for Kids raised the most out of any of the other rides taking place across the country, with $125,000 going to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF). American Honda’s Special Tools and Library Services departments also hosted a fundraiser earlier in the year and raised $26,000.

As the official national sponsor of Ride for Kids since 1991, Honda donates a bike for an opportunity drawing at each ride and finds additional ways to contribute throughout the year. Honda executives Susie Rossick, department head and assistant vice president of Acura Marketing, and Chuck Boderman, business unit head and vice president of Powersports Products, both sit on the PBTF board of directors.

“It’s great to plan the ride and find new ways to support and raise money for the PBTF,” said AHM associate Peter Eastburn, who is part of the taskforce for the Los Angeles Ride for Kids effort and has served as the liaison between Honda and PBTF for the past five years. Eastburn also finds new partnerships for the ride. New additions this year included teaming up with Iconic Motorbikes to auction off two rare motorcycles, a 2001 “Jurassic Park” RC51 sport bike and 1981 CBX, and partnering with ride-planning/tracking/sharing app Rever with a month-long challenge to track 250,000 miles collectively.

During the ride, Honda and the PBTF welcomed Stars, those living with brain tumors and survivors, to ride with escorts on the 36-mile route to and from Honda’s Torrance, California, campus. Nearly 30 Honda volunteers also served as an important part of the fundraiser by checking in participants, cheering the bikers on before and after the ride, and serving up lunch to the bikers and STARS in attendance.

“Hearing those engines revving is empowering,” said Kathy Riley, a parent of a brain tumor survivor and vice president for the PBTF’s Family Support. “My son was nine at his first ride and is now 32. The funding continues to be a crucial part of what we need.”

Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer death in children. According to PBTF Regional Director Valerie Lodeum, Honda has been the lead sponsor for Ride for Kids since the very beginning. Lodeum lost her nephew to a brain tumor, so appreciates Honda’s support for the organization’s mission.

“When my nephew passed, there was no PBTF,” she shared. “If there had been, that would have been the support that we needed.”

To learn more about how the PBTF is working to eliminate the challenges of childhood brain tumors, go to curethekids.org.

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