December 23 - 29, 2012: Issue 90

Children in a Goldwing photo by Robyn McWilliam

Robyn's husband Ian, photo by Robyn McWilliam

Friends – Greg and Gayle Reid, photo by Robyn McWilliam

Professor Glenn Marshall, photo by Robyn McWilliam

Robert Hayward, winner of the bike, photo by Robyn McWilliam.

Copyright Robyn McWilliam, 2012. All Rights Reserved. 

 The Snowy Bike Ride 2012
by Robyn McWilliam

Annually, on the first weekend in November, the Snowy Mountains resonates to the throaty roar of motorbikes. More than 2800 bikers arrive at Thredbo this year, 2012, for the twelfth
Snowy Ride.

Steven Walter, a young man, who loved motorcycle riding, died of cancer aged 19. During his eight year fight against the illness, he wanted to raise money for childhood cancer research. The first Snowy Ride took place in 2001.

This year bikers (men and women who like curvy roads on two wheels) pay an entry fee of $60 and the National Parks and Wildlife Service waive entry from Friday afternoon to Sunday morning. Entrants receive a sticker for their bike and a checkpoint card.

On the Saturday they ride around getting their card stamped at three of the nine checkpoints at places such as Cooma, Jindabyne and Thredbo. In the afternoon the bikes gather in the huge car park at the Bullocks Flat Ski Tube about 18 kms out of Thredbo for the Mass Ride at 4 pm.

Children from the oncology ward at Sydney Children’s Hospital and their families are also present this weekend. They enjoy a break from hospital routine and take part in the activities.
The Royal Australian Navy comes on a training exercise and takes the children for flights over the Snowy Mountains.

The footbridge across to the ski lifts is a great vantage point to see participants of the Mass Ride enter Thredbo Village. We know they are close when the helicopter whooshes overhead.
Through a smattering of gum leaves, the big Goldwing bikes with their sidecars for the cancer kids are first.

Motorcycles parade in an endless stream. I spot the bright red of Ian’s BMW. It’s my husband’s eighth Snowy Ride; he has the T-shirts to prove it. His bike is followed by friends, Greg and Gayle Reid. Quite a number of riders in our group are from the Northern Beaches.

The burble of bike engines disappear as they are parked and crowds gather at the Village Square. Dressed predominantly in boots, leathers, draggin jeans (these are Kevlar lined in case of tar surfing) and jackets, the bikers eagerly await the presentation.

All the entrants’ checkpoint cards are in a barrel on stage. The major prize is a Honda VFR 1200X valued at $25000 donated by Honda Motorcycles Australia. This is the major sponsor but many others on the website have generously donated prizes.

First the organisers of the Steven Walter Children’s Cancer Foundation remind us why this event is so important. More than 100 volunteers are assisting this year and a Thredbo Village
representative hands over a cheque for $10000 to keep it running.

The Foundation’s vision is 100% survival for all children with cancer. At present three out of ten children diagnosed do not survive. By financially supporting vital research and clinical trials the money raised by the Snowy Ride is making a difference.

A remarkable teenager, Madeleine Mackay-Law, comes to the stage to tell her story. She is bright and well-spoken but her journey of childhood leukaemia over four years has been a
real challenge. “It’s not easy dealing with losing your hair in the first year of high school,” she says. After treatment the cancer returned two years later. Further treatment and recovery
followed. Such a brave girl to speak so frankly in front of an audience of thousands.

Madeleine Mackay-Law by and courtesy of Guy Davies Photography

Then we hear from Professor Glenn Marshall, Director Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick. Money from the Snowy Ride has assisted in doubling the survival rate of childhood leukaemia to 80%. His dedication and commitment is obvious in his talk. No wonder the ride and its raffle are so well supported.

Excitement builds as cards are pulled from the barrel and prizes distributed. Amidst whistles and applause Robert Hayward makes his way to the stage to receive the key to his new
Honda motorbike. The formalities are over for another year but the stage will liven up for a concert later in the evening.

If you like the idea of a motorcycle ride in the Snowy Mountains or would like to be support crew then put aside the first weekend in November 2013. Help children’s cancer research by being part of the Snowy Ride.


 Crowd in Thredbo Village, photo by Robyn McWilliam.