Orange, CA - Last year, following Bandit’s appearance at the 6th annual CHOC Ride, a motorcycle rally to benefit Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), Board Member Bill Rivera told Mark, “Very few things can bring this much joy to a sick child and you, Laura (Stockham) and Bandit have been blessed to do this. No question, I know that CHOC wants you back next year…”
So, Sunday, August 20, 2006, Bandit, Mark Shaffer (Bandit’s owner) and Laura Stockham (Bandit’s costumer, friend and favorite assistant) will once again join the event’s Grand Marshall, Actor, Musician & Biker-cum-Humanitarian Mickey Jones for the 7th Annual CHOC Ride, an event that is open to the public whether you own a motorcycle or not.
“The ride starts at Children’s Hospital of Orange County,” Shaffer explains. “But it ends up at the former Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin where there will be lots of activities for the entire family.“ There’s going to be a lot of family activities including:
Last year, Bandit (who is certified as a therapy dog) rode from room to room on his scaled down Harley Davidson to entertain the young patients in the hospital. “These were kids who really needed a reason to smile,” recalls Shaffer.
Jones (known all over the world for his work in movies, television and music) agreed, adding, “Bandit was the highlight of the event when it came to those kids.” In fact, Jones is coming to San Diego soon to help Mark promote the event to the San Diego biker community.
“I know the San Diego biker community very well,” said Shaffer who, when he’s not selling homes for Prudential CA Realty, has been a part of the biker scene for a number of years. I know a lot of them ride up to attend the event and so Mickey and I want to personally invite as many from the San Diego area to attend this great event that brings so much joy to the kids. I mean, where else can you have so much fun while bringing smiles to children’s faces? It’s the ultimate win-win scenario for any biker. Or biker dog. That’s why, when we were invited to attend last year, I jumped at the chance to work with Mickey who has been involved in this event since it began.”
History of The CHOC Ride
The event started 7 years ago when Bill Rivera (President of MMi in Irvine and CHOC Padrino Board Member) decided to have a motorcycle run to benefit the hospital. The organizers contacted Actor/Musician/Humanitarian Mickey Jones who quickly agreed to host the event.
Initially, the event started at Sloppy Joe's in the Irvine Spectrum. The followed a pre-designated route, stopping at the hospital en route to see some of the kids, then ride back to Sloppy Joe's and listen to 2000 Lbs of Blues play on the Sloppy Joe's stage and have a light lunch.
When the number of riders grew so large that the locale was no longer workable, the ride was restructured to include opening ceremonies at Orange County Harley Davidson, a ride via the hospital again, and back to a local park (initially Hidden Valley in Irvine) for an expanded afternoon of music by multiple bands, food, vendors, etc.
Two years later the ride was again reformatted to allow for opening ceremonies to be held at the hospital. One of the most frequent requests CHOC had was that the riders wanted to be able to spend more time at the hospital with the kids. The new format met that need.
Today, the ride has become so popular another change has been added. The ride now departs from the hospital and, instead of a parade format, includes a poker run for the participants. This change was added to give the riders more flexibility and entertainment as well as to avoid the congestion that normally accompanies large groups that ride in formation.
After visiting the children, it’s on to Oak Canyon Park for a 7 hour festival that includes 3 live bands, a Motor Corps performance, bike show, car show, food, vendors, drawings, an exclusive VIP area (limited tickets sold - catered lunch, special gifts and seating, etc.) and lots of fun and surprises each year.
Mickey Heeds The Call
Jones, recognized for his work in numerous movies, TV show “Home Improvement” and as the drummer for both Bob Dylan and Kenny Rogers, described how he got involved:
“In early 2000 I got approached and asked if I would be willing to host a motorcycle event for the kids at CHOC. I had no idea what CHOC was. When I found out it was Children's Hospital of Orange County, I said, without hesitation, ‘YES!’”
The popular actor and musician, who has made his mark in movies playing tough guys and menacing bikers is, in reality, a sucker for kids. “I actually was one once and I can still remember a lot of those days,” he adds with a chuckle.
Jones’ popularity and sincerity has played a big part in the success of the CHOC Ride, helping it to grow each year. “The first year of the event, I was hoping for 200 to 300 motorcycles. I know it takes time to build something like this. We actually got 948 motorcycles that first year. I asked if we could double that next year and everyone said, ‘We are sure going to try.’ In 2001 we had 2000 motorcycles. It has grown every year.”
Mickey went on to place emphasis on the real purpose behind his involvement. “You know, CHOC provides care for any and all kids, regardless if the families have insurance or even if they have no ability to pay. The money we raise for CHOC picks up some of the slack for the folks that can't pay.”
Over the years, Mickey has invited a number of celebrities to ride with him for CHOC. This year was no different. Friend and fellow actor Michael Gregory accompanied Jones. “A new addition this year is that our friend, Mark Shaffer and ‘Bandit the Biker Dog’ joined us. And absolutely everyone… not just the kids… fell in love with Bandit!”
Jones and the celebrities, along with Mark and Bandit, visited as many kids as they could in their hospital rooms. “These are the kids that cannot make it down to see the bikes,” Jones pointed out. “Believe me, we get a much bigger reward out of this visit than these kids will ever get.” Mickey then paused and noted that sometimes he has to walk around the corner for a moment to regain his composure, because, “It is just too painful for me to stick around.”
After a few private moments, however, the big man is back doing what it is he does best: bringing smiles to the faces of children whose only wish is for something to smile about. And, for one afternoon, those wishes come true, thanks to the efforts of the big biker with the even bigger heart. “I will always be there for this event, and I will always encourage all bikers to join us,” Jones adds, “because these kids need all the help we can give them.”
Mickey added that this has become a family event for him. “This year my wife, Phyllis, who is a quilter, made a commemorative quilt made of T-shirt logos from every year of the CHOC Ride. It was raffled off at the event. and believe me everyone wanted to win that quilt, especially me.”
One of Mickey’s most endearing qualities is that he keeps perspective about his celebrity status, remaining both proud of his work in the world of film, television and music, yet humble about his contribution to charitable events like the CHOC Ride. This is evident in his final words to me: “I want to extend my personal thanks to everyone involved and especially the folks who do all the hard work. I show up and ride but these folks work all year for these kids.”
On Sunday, August 21st, however, the efforts of everyone involved culminated in a meaningful event no one who participated will ever forget. Plan to attend next year when Mickey, Bandit and thousands of bikers will team up once more to bring smiles to the faces of children who, as Jones reminds us, “need something to smile about.”
For more information about the CHOC Ride and Family Festival, or to sign up, please visit the official web site for the CHOC Ride, www.chocride.org.