OFF THE WIRE
A small group of bikers rolls into Camp Boggy Creek on a rainy Sunday for the Boggy Creek charity ride. (N-J | David Massey)
Elizabeth Lamont of Ormond Beach stands with her son Darien on Sunday. Darien is one of the children who will benefit from the Boggy Creek charity ride. (N-J | David Massey)
EUSTIS -- Rain came down by the buckets Sunday, but it didn't dampen the charitable spirit at Camp Boggy Creek.
Each year before Biketoberfest, hundreds of motorcyclists participate in Bruce Rossmeyer's Ride for Children, which starts at Destination Daytona and ends 45 miles away at the camp.
The event is the biggest fundraiser for Camp Boggy Creek, which has served more than 52,000 children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses since it opened in 1996.
Most bikers made this year's ride by car, but a few braved the weather on their motorcycles.
Bryan Sullivan, who was visiting from Flushing, N.Y., said he rode in from Daytona Beach with a rag in his hand to wipe the raindrops from his helmet's visor. Traveling through high winds and heavy downpours leaves little margin for error, he said.
"You put your life on the line," Sullivan said.
Even though attendance for Sunday's event was about half of what it normally is, camp staff didn't expect a decline in donations.
About 500 riders made it to the camp, compared with more than 1,000 during a typical year, said Sarah Gurtis, vice president of marketing and development.
Riders pay in advance, and some even make additional donations even if they can't attend, she said. Since 1995, the event has raised about $4 million for the camp.
Elizabeth Lamont, 29, of Ormond Beach said the generosity of bikers has definitely made a difference in her son Darien's life. Darien is only 9 years old, but he has already had two open-heart surgeries because of a condition he was born with.
At Camp Boggy Creek, Lamont has gone horseback riding, shot a bow and arrow and sung camp songs. He has befriended two dozen other campers with similar conditions to his own.
"It's kind of like a vacation," he said. "You get away from the stress."
That's the idea behind Camp Boggy Creek's mission. The 232-acre facility has a mini-golf course, swim center, stable and barn, sports and recreation center, arts and craft center and theater, among other amenities. A medical center is also on site to serve children.
All of this is provided to families at no charge. The camp's nearly $4 million operating budget is funded through donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and health-care partners.
Before Lamont came to Camp Boggy Creek, his only trips were to hospitals, his mother said. Getting away for fun is something he needs.
"He gets to just sit back and enjoy being a kid," she said.
Bruce Rossmeyer, who owned Daytona Harley-Davidson, was one of the event's founders. He died in 2009 in a motorcycle accident in Wyoming, and shortly after his death, the ride was named in his honor.
His widow and children attended the event Sunday. The ride still has a special meaning for the family, and they plan to carry on Rossmeyer's legacy.
"His whole heart and soul went into the camp," said Tim Van Patten, Rossmeyer's son-in-law. "He recognized the beauty of giving without asking anything in return. Nothing made him feel better than coming down to this camp."
Rossmeyer's widow, Sandy, said it was good to see the flood of goodwill from motorcyclists at the camp Sunday.
"Bikers have really big hearts," she said.