A group of five self-described “modern-day cowboys” launched a fundraiser 17 years ago that now has raised more than $900,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The annual Gulf Coast Police Motorcycle Skills Championship brings together competitors from across the country to test their riding skills at the week-long event outside Baton Rouge, LA. The most recent championship, held in October 2014, raised $87,000 — the highest total in the event’s history.
Baton Rouge Police Sgt. David Wallace, one of the competition’s founders, said the group’s motivation is simple: It’s all about the kids of St. Jude. “From day one, just helping kids who can’t help themselves. We know that St. Jude does that, so that’s why we want to support it.”
And that motivation has never wavered.
“The first patient that we were able to know was a young lady named Sarah. We didn’t know her story, we just knew she was sick,” he said. “We know we’ve lost a lot of kids that we’ve met over the 17 years. But Sarah was the first and now Sarah’s in college and she’s doing phenomenal.”
Over the years, the motorcycle competition has evolved into the largest motorcycle rodeo in the U.S.
"Over the years, the motorcycle competition has evolved into the largest motorcycle rodeo in the U.S.," Wallace said. The 147 competitors in 2014 came from Arizona, New Jersey and many points in between, as well as from Mexico and Canada.
In addition to the Baton Rouge Police Department, nine other law enforcement agencies support the annual competition.
"All signs point to surpassing the $1 million mark in total funds raised by 2015," Wallace said. The group wants to add a festival to the event lineup next year that would include local band performances and family-friendly activities.
“We want everybody to come out and have something for them to do,” Wallace said. “The more people we bring, the more money we can generate.”