Cruising through Green Bay for a cause
By Kira Doman
GREEN BAY – For more than 20 years, Dixie Kennard, her parents Lynn and Rick Vandervest, and her brother Eric Vandervest have led the charge of the Jerry Parins Foundation’s annual Cruise for Cancer.
The Harley-Davidson loving family has paired their shared love for riding bikes with their shop ownership to drive community support.
The fundraiser’s namesake Jerry Parins is a motorcycle rider, former Green Bay police officer and the head of security for the Green Bay Packers, who had been diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2003 at the age of 64.
Kennard said she and the rest of the Vandervest family had been working with Parins for years due to their mutual love of motorcycles.
It was after Parins was diagnosed that he, Kennard, the Vandervest family and many other community members took their own resources to host the first event of the Jerry Parins Cruise for Cancer.
“(Folks) got together and decided to do a ride for Jerry, just to show him our support,” Kennard said. “And then from there, it morphed into what it is today, where it’s grown majorly over the years from a small ride to more than 400 riders now.”
When the fundraiser was first getting its footing in the early 2000s, Kennard said they were making less than $50,000.
She said as the cruise has garnered attention through the years, they are now reaching $150,000 per cruise.
“We keep it in the community,” Kennard said. “It’s all local organizations that receive the funds.”
On Tuesday, May 24, Jerry Parins Cruise for Cancer organizers presented checks to nine different cancer organizations – HSHS St. Vincent/St. Mary’s Foundation, Bellin Health Foundation, Unity Hospice, HSHS St. Vincent’s Child Life, Bellin Child Life, Colton’s Cure, Ovarian Cancer Community Outreach, Ribbon of Hope Foundation and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Kennard said $144,000 was distributed with proceeds from last year’s ride, other events held throughout 2020 and individual donations.
She said funds donated to the foundation are held by the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation until they are gifted to the recipient.
“We try to spread it around the hospitals, the ones that touch the most people that are affected by cancer,” Kennard said. “The money we raise oftentimes goes to fund programs or equipment they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to provide. There’s a compassionate care fund that is funded by the ride that provides gas cards or gift cards for cancer patients and their families.”
She said St. Vincent Hospital used funds received from the foundation to purchase top-tier gaming systems for the children undergoing treatments.
“They bought a gaming system that would go over the children’s beds when they’re receiving treatment they could play video games on,” Kennard said. “They also funded a cape program they had, where the kids get a superhero cape, and they sew on patches each time they get a treatment.”
The most recent donations, she said, has pushed the amount raised and donated to local cancer organizations to more than $2 million.
This year’s motorcycle ride will take place on Sunday, June 5, marking the 19th year of the Jerry Parins Cruise for Cancer Ride.
This year, riders will be escorted by the Green Bay Police Department on a ride through the City of Green Bay.
The ride starts at the Vandervest Harley-Davidson Dealership, follows the bay along Bay Settlement Road and loops back around to the dealership.
“We do try to encourage the public to come out along the road, if they live on that road, or they want to come and find a spot to sit and wave and just show their support for the cause as well because there’s not one person that’s not affected by it in the community,” Kennard said.
During the event each year, organizers honor families that are on their own cancer journeys, and Kennard said this year would be no different – with several families of individuals that are battling cancer being honored and participating in the event.
This year, Kennard said, “we have three cancer patients that are currently battling right now, that will be joining us on the ride.”
There is a $20 entrance charge to participate in the ride, with an additional $15 for passengers.
Kennard said many bikers already have pledges lined up through local businesses and friends and family.
Pre-registration for the ride is appreciated but not required.
Kennard said that because weather can be so unpredictable, they allow motorcyclists to register up until the ride takes off at 11:30 a.m.
A tailgate party will take place at the Vandervest Harley Davidson dealership on Velp Avenue in Howard – complete with a silent auction, a live auction, bucket raffles and plenty of food and beverages.
Aside from cruise events in June, the Jerry Parins Foundation holds several fundraisers year-round where individuals can participate in and donate to the cause.
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