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Montreal Families

Bikers offer support for abused children

The gang of tattooed bikers in black leather and blue jeans look tough as they roar through Montreal streets on their motorcycles, but the show of muscle isn’t pompous or self-serving.

They are members of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), which recruits motorcyclists to volunteer their time to comfort children who have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused. This non-profit organization aims to provide safety, support and empowerment to kids through mentorship and intervention.

The president of the Montreal chapter goes by the biker name Groucho and like most other members, he prefers not to share his legal name.

Groucho says that many kids are scared of the abuser but they know their biker brothers and sisters can look pretty fierce so that gives them confidence. “If we were Golfers Against Child Abuse, it wouldn’t have the same effect,” he said.

The organization was founded in Utah in 1995 by a child therapist named John Paul “(The) Chief” Lilly who wanted to do as much as possible to help kids who were suffering because of abuse. He approached friends of his who were bikers and asked for their help in protecting vulnerable kids.

Chief organized the first BACA ride in 1995 and 27 bikers participated. Today, the organization has chapters in major cities around the world, including the U.S., Australia and across Europe.

Members volunteer their time but that doesn’t mean the work is unrewarding.  “Our paycheck is the smile on the child’s face at the end of the day,” Groucho says.

The organization is vigilant in recruiting members — all bikers are required to submit to a federal fingerprinted background check. They also must ride with a BACA chapter for at least one year and be unanimously voted in by a governing Board of Directors. Every chapter has the same mission: protect the child at all costs.

Kids are referred by parents, guardians, police or child-care agencies. In order to weed out false claims, child abuse cases must be reported to authorities before bikers become involved.

A liaison is assigned to introduce BACA members to a referred child either at the home or another location. The child is given photos, bumper stickers and a couple of other small gifts, and the initial visit generally lasts about half an hour. Following this, the child is given the names and numbers of two members who live close to them and they become the primary contacts. (Children must always be in the company of two members at any given time.)

One way BACA members establish trust with a child is through the organization’s teddy bear mascot, which is passed around and hugged by the members on their first visit with the child as a symbol of support. Groucho says it breaks the ice for the kids who are nervous about meeting them.

BACA also offers an assistance fund so children can seek therapy and accompany them to appointments or other places if they are scared. Members are required to support children at court and parole hearings and their presence can make a huge difference to a child who must testify about the abuse. According to Groucho, most kids feel more confident when members are present during court hearings and it provides them with much-needed support.

“Some of us are big and ugly with tattoos all over, so kids feel safe because they know they have these big bikers protecting them,” Groucho says.

Every year on May 20, all BACA chapters participate in the 100-mile Ride, an event that aims to raise awareness about the organization. At last year’s event in Montreal, more than 175 bikers took part. BACA is also hosting a fundraising concert on Jan. 20 at the Pioneer Bar in Pointe-Claire.

The organization, which is funded by the public and various organizations, hosts an international meeting and conference with more than a dozen workshops about topics such as childhood trauma, the effects of abuse on children, how to communicate with victims of child abuse, biker conduct with children and more.

For more information, visit canada.bacaworld.org/montreal-quebec.

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