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2010-02-15 "Charity Begins at Home"

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Charity Begins at Home


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Jack, a retired engineer, has a lust for all-things petrol powered. Ever since he first sampled the joys of motorcycling from the pillion seat of his school friend’s bike over 40 years ago, he’s been hooked. However, it wasn’t until recently that Jack fulfilled a long-held ambition to undertake a marathon motorcycle journey into the wilds of Canada from his home in Philadelphia in eastern America.

“In 2008, me and a friend flew a light aircraft to Alaska and had a great adventure,” he explains. “We had talked about taking our wives there as neither of them had been to Alaska so I started looking into organizing a trip. Then there was a gap in my schedule and I began to think that riding to Alaska on a motorcycle would really be a great idea. I spoke to my friend about it and he wasn’t so enthusiastic, so I decided to ride while they flew and I would meet them there.”

Over recent years, Jack has used his spare time working as a freelance engineer in the four-wheeled American Le Mans race series and the Grand Am championship. He has also set several records at the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats on two wheels and believes that somebody would be missing a trick if they didn’t have a go for the 1000cc record there on a BMW S1000RR. It was through his speed trials activities that Jack first began to support the Austin Hatcher Foundation – a pediatric cancer charity set up by two friends who tragically lost their child to cancer.

“I have been a supporter of the Austin Hatcher Foundation since it was set up in 2006 through my speed trials and other motorsport activities, so I thought the ride to Alaska and back would be a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness and funds for the foundation,” Jack continues. “Initially, I wanted to raise a few hundred dollars and maybe get my story in a few magazines; however I ended up raising around $4,000 and significantly increasing awareness of the foundation.”

The Austin Hatcher Foundation’s mission is to support research towards the diagnoses, treatment and development of a cure for pediatric cancer and to provide support and hope to children and families undergoing treatment, as well as to those who have lost children due to cancer. With this humble statement in mind, Jack wasn’t short of motivation during his ride.

“I think the best moment of the whole experience was when I received a donation from somebody I didn’t even know,” he adds. “Donations had been made by friends, family and contacts, but not by a complete stranger. The first time somebody read my story online, saw what I was doing and felt compelled to donate was pretty special.”

With a route planned and his fundraising goals set out, all Jack had to do was choose which bike to take. “I own a BMW R1200GS and an F650GS, and both get a lot of use,” he reveals. “I bought the F650GS with the Alaska trip in mind as it has all the attributes of a mixed use bike without the size and heft. It had only covered 700 miles before the trip and had done about 12,000 by the time I got back. Smarter people than me tell me that it equates to half way around the world!”

During the 60-day ride, Jack continually updated his blog and kept his supporters up to speed on the numerous forums he had registered to prior to the trip in order to raise awareness. Despite spending hours on his laptop, Jack still found time to appreciate his awesome surroundings. “Once I got above Edmonton – the last major city on my route – and I saw a sign which read ‘Welcome to Yukon’ I knew why I decided to go on the trip. The scenery, the culture and the vastness of it all was overwhelming. My goal was to make it to the Hatcher Pass and that was a highlight, although there was a surprise around every Your browser may not support display of this image. corner.”

However, the trip wasn’t without its difficulties, but Jack was able to retain a sense of perspective. “There was one moment on Summit Pass (the highest road around Alberta) that was particularly challenging,” he adds. “As I made my way to the summit, it kept getting colder and wetter, and soon I came across a stretch of unpaved road which was essentially a mud hole for as far as the eye could see. It was the first really tough part of the ride. There were no other vehicles around and if I’d have had an accident, help was a long way away. But I kept reminding myself of the Austin Hatcher Foundation and the challenges the people it supports face, and the mud hole really didn’t seem too bad.”

After 44 days, 20 American states, two Canadian provinces, four time-zones and 12,019 miles, Jack returned home, safe in the knowledge that he had succeeded in raising funds and awareness for the Austin Hatcher Foundation. But no sooner had he arrived home then Jack was planning his next charity ride.

“I plan to ride in South Africa in the next few years, but it depends on whether I’ll be able to finance the trip,” he concludes. “The Austin Hatcher Foundation is really important to me though, so I keep putting coins in my jar and saving!”

For more information on the Austin Hatcher Foundation, please visit

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