If you thought helping your healthy kid sell cookies or candy bars was a hassle, imagine having to raise $4,000 every summer to send your disabled child to camp for just two weeks.
Then imagine a bunch of bikers — bikers you don't know, bikers who don't have disabled children themselves — stepped in to lend a hand.
Shady Oaks Camp at 16300 Parker Road in Homer Glen is a second home to some 40 children and adults with physical and mental disabilities. Each camper is paired with a counselor.
So when a motorcycle group offered to do a fundraiser 10 years ago, the camp family felt a little relief in closing that budget gap. The Shady Oaks Benefit Run was born.
"Without the SOB Run, we'd have a difficult time opening each year," said Scott Steele, Shady Oaks executive director. "They've raised over $100,000, and it's really helped cut the costs."
The SOB Run on Sunday, July 28, is a motorcycle poker run that travels from Shady Oaks Camp to restaurants or bars in Morris, Herscher and Monee. It ends with a party open to nonriders, with food and music by the Dancing Noodles at Chi-Town Harley-Davidson in Tinley Park.
Motorcyclists who participate in the SOB Run have the opportunity to see some of the campers they are helping. Campers, many in wheelchairs, are at the 30-acre camp when motorcyclists start arriving for the $4 pancake breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Registration follows from 9 to 11 a.m. and costs $20 per rider and $15 per passenger. Non-riders may join the after-party for a $10 donation.
Tickets are $10 for the grand raffle prize of $10,000.
Forty bikers showed up for the first run and raised $2,500, said Geno Francione, the Tinley Park resident who founded the SOB Run with family and friends. In 2012, some 250 motorcyclists raised $40,000.
Francione doesn't have a disabled family member attending camp, but his friend's son went to Shady Oaks and really enjoyed it, he said.
"My brother and friends and I were thinking we should do something, and the poker run was born," he said. "The camp relies on private donations and fundraising."
When it opened in 1947, Shady Oaks Camp was only three buildings and served people with cerebral palsy. Now the camp includes seven dorms, a heated pool, a large dining hall and a recreational facility. Campers, who range from 5 to adults, have muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities.
"One camper has been coming here all 66 years," Steele said. "His parents were founding members. This is his home, where he grew up."
For other details about the SOB Run or camp, call Shady Oaks Camp at 708-301-0816 or Francione at 708-935-7777. Or go to shadyoakscamp.org or find the Shady Oaks Riders on Facebook.