BARRHEAD- The Red Knights motorcycle club is hoping for a big turnout for its annual Sept. 11 charity run.
That is why the club asked the Town of Barrhead to temporarily close a portion of 51st Avenue (Veteran's Way) between Main Street and 51st Street from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Red Knights International Firefighters Motorcycle Club is, as the name suggests, a motorcycle club for firefighters past and present.
The Barrhead chapter was formed close to three years ago by former fire chief John Whittaker, a long-time motorcycle rider.
Red Knights president Don Smith said the club is making a couple of notable changes from previous years, the first being that the ride will no longer be solely a fundraiser for one organization. Previously the ride, which the Red Knights took over the organizing of, was a toy ride and fundraiser for Santa's Toy Box, a Barrhead and District Family Support Services (FCSS) program that ensures youths in need find something special under the tree on Christmas.
"While [Santa's Toy Box] is a worthy program, we decided we wanted to spread the wealth around and help other community organizations as well," he said.
The first new organization being helped is the Barrhead Community Victim Services Unit (VSU).
The VSU is a non-profit organization that helps support individuals who are the victims of crime, trauma, death or other emergencies in Barrhead, Swan Hills, Fort Assiniboine and Big Lakes County. Most often the VSU volunteers, or volunteer advocates, are called upon at the request of the RCMP, but also receive referrals from fire services, the Crown Prosecutor’s office, healthcare centres, and ambulance crews.
Smith said the VSU holds a special place with their members since the majority of the Red Knights are current or former firefighters.
"Firefighters often work closely with VSUs," he said.
Smith recounted two instances when he was a young Barrhead Regional Fire Services (BRFS) firefighter and recovered two drowning victims.
"The support they gave to the firefighters and of course the family was just amazing," he said. "I am not sure what we would have done without their help."
The other reason, Smith said, that the Red Knights chose to support the VSU is that in recent years the organization is facing challenges such as changes in their provincial grant funding and potentially in the model of VSUs provide service.
As for the ride itself, interested motorcyclists will meet at Pembina West Co-op's gas bar in Barrhead starting at 9 a.m. The registration fee is $20 and includes a chance to win half the pot in a modified poker game. Riders will receive a sealed envelope containing a poker hand.
At 10 a.m. the riders will set about on a 200-kilometre journey, making stops in Mayerthorpe, Darwell and Onoway before returning to Barrhead for a barbecue lunch.
The barbecue is open to the public, with the proceeds going to the Barrhead Community VSU.
In addition to the barbecue, the VSU will have an information table about the organization and how people can get involved.
"[BRFS chief Gary Hove] has promised to bring some of the fire department's equipment to display, including [Tower 6, the aerial truck] and we invite people to come and take a look at the bikes ... I am hoping for a good turn out, so there should be a lot of unique machines on display."