By Danielle Tepper
The fog lifted on the morning of Sunday, September 15 and gave way to blue skies and sun—perfect conditions for a motorcycle ride. From Gilbert to Elysburg, approximately 350 vehicles rode adorned with pink ribbons to memorialize a baby girl gone too soon.
Lifelong Effort Pa. resident Wayne Halliday was simply driving down the road back in February when he was struck by the idea of wanting to do something for Dream Come True. The nonprofit organization devotes its resources to enriching the lives of terminally ill children, something that resonates with Wayne as he lost his own daughter twelve years ago.
Emily McKenzie Halliday was born with a chromosomal condition known as Trisomy 13, which typically causes “heart defects, brain or spinal cord abnormalities, very small or poorly developed eyes, extra fingers and/or toes, cleft lips, cleft palates, and weak muscle tone,” according to the Genetics Home Reference website. This combination of life-threatening problems leads to staggering statistics: Only five to 10 percent of children with Trisomy 13 live past their first year.
Emily lived two months and one day.
Halliday had previously been involved with the Blue Ridge Chapter of Dream Come True in other ways, but this was his first attempt at his own fundraiser.
“I wanted to continue to work with them and also find a way to commemorate my daughter,” explained Halliday. “My drive was from her spirit; she was making me do this.”
His brainstorming led him to the United Dream Ride.
“I wanted to try something that I enjoy and I love motorcycles,” he said. “The word ‘dream’ was just stuck in my head, so, Dream Ride.”
Halliday has worked at Palmerton Carquest for the past 14 years and his love of cars contributed to the ‘united’ part of the name. His motorcycle run also included cars, trucks, and hot rods. It was a general coming together of anyone who wanted to participate.
Once he had a plan in mind, Halliday was off and running. Pulling the event together was truly a labor of love. When he was just starting out, Halliday didn’t have much help. He was setting up appointments and phone calls for evenings after work in order to get sponsorship to help pay the bills. He accumulated an impressive list of approximately 60 organizations and companies all willing to contribute to one man with a heartbreaking story.
“I went to my friends in the community and the American Legion Riders Post 927 in Gilbert heard about it and wanted to get involved,” Halliday said. “They strongly believed in what I wanted to do and wanted to help in whatever way they could. They donated their entire facility to the ride.”
Post 927 also had breakfast for everyone. A $3 donation bought them an egg bagel sandwich, plus coffee, juice, and/or water. Breakfast alone raised $500 for Dream Come True.
“They did a phenomenal job helping with staging, parking, breakfast,” said Halliday. “It was really everybody’s efforts combined, from the mid stages to the end. Everything was 100% donated by the people I made contact with over the summer.”
According to Halliday, West End Fire Co. in Brodheadsville and Polk Township Volunteer Fire Co. were instrumental in helping him get the route planned. Through them, fire and police in neighboring towns along their planned route were alerted to the event.
“The morning of the ride, everything just came together and it was all thanks to them,” said Halliday. “State police assisted us at [Route] 209, intersections were shut down, everything.”
At 10 a.m. sharp, approximately 300 bikes and 50 cars started the 87 mile trek to Knoebels Amusement Park from Gilbert.
“I was in the front, so I didn’t actually see this, but the riders at the back of the line told me that people started coming out of their homes and businesses and churches to watch and wave,” said Halliday. “There was just this overwhelming warmth from these small towns.”
Halliday was grateful for such a positive turnout and reception his first time out. He relied heavily on Facebook for promotion, but one thing that really helped was attending this year’s Ride for Adam, which he has done for the past five years now.
“Casey got a hold of my flyer and called me up on stage to tell my story, which was a great experience,” he said. “I got to tell 2,000 bikers about my little girl, it was wonderful.”
He had a commercial made and donated by Blue Ridge Cable, which ran all summer. He even had a special shirt designed for the riders, which became great conversation pieces as they were walking around Knoebels.
“One gentleman had a lady come up and ask him what the shirts were for,” said Halliday. “He told her my story and she reached into her pocket and gave him what was left of her cash—she donated $5 to Dream Come True.”
At the end of the day, they had raised $19,000. The success has spurred Halliday into considering making it an annual event.
“Dream Ride 2 is in the works,” he said. “People don’t understand the emotions that bikers actually feel. They think ‘bikers,’ you know […] but the biggest fundraisers are the motorcycle community’s. People have to realize that. These guys want to do good for so many things. I can’t tell you how amazing it was to see all the smiling faces at Knoebels. The feedback was awesome.”
Halliday says the event was completely driven by Emily and it meant the world to him.
“I would just like to thank everybody for the amazing, heartfelt response to this first ride,” he said, his voice breaking. “My dream came true September 15.”
Wayne Halliday would like to personally thank R.F. Ohl of Lehighton, Henry’s Service Station of Danielsville, Palmerton Subway and Jim Thorpe Subway, as well as all the fire companies, police personnel, and each and every sponsor and participant for helping bring the United Dream Ride to life.
Join the United Dream Ride on Facebook.