A group got together over the summer to collect donations to pay off overdue lunch accounts — one motorcycle ride at a time.
Hundreds of motorcycle riders turned up for a Ride and Dine event, which was held every other Thursday starting Memorial Day weekend through Sept. 8. Each person paid $10 for a 30- to 45-minute cruise out of town and back, plus a hot meal at Rock Point in Mandan.
In all, the group of sponsors who put on the event garnered more than $8,000 to go to Bismarck and Mandan public schools to pay off school lunch debt.
"We thought, that’s a great idea, why don’t we do something like that because these kids, it’s not their fault. They get to go to school, and the last thing they should have to worry about is having a hot lunch," said Dave Allan, program director for Rock 101, which sponsored the event.
In the past, the group has donated to charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project and Carrie’s Kids. The event has existed for three years. Sponsors this year were Jerome Distributing, Action Motor Sports, Custom Stripes and Sign Worx, Doll's Studios, Rock Point, Hook's Towing and Freedom Riders MC.
"It’s just a really good cause that it goes to. I think it’s a really big problem that most people don’t understand," said Steven Pletan, general manager at Action Motor Sports, whose company also had donated a 2017 Indian Scout motorcycle that was given away at the event.
Bismarck Public Schools said in May it had about 1,110 students whose parents were unable to pay for lunches, totaling about $32,000. About $9,000 of the balance was owed by students no longer part of the system.
The local group donated $5,363 to BPS and Mandan Public Schools received $2,641.
"I’m very, very grateful for the money that we’re getting," said Michelle Wagner, BPS director of child nutrition. "We have a new policy in place and we’re just kind of going through those steps and we’re working on paying off that debt."
In June, the Bismarck School Board approved updates to the district's meal charging policy in an effort to reduce and prevent overdue accounts.
Mike Bitz, superintendent for MPS, said the donation will go to the district's Foundation for Education, which helps students in need, including with overdue lunch accounts.
Allan said the Ride and Dine nights were a huge success, with about 150 bikers showing up for the year-end event called the 9-11 Motorcycle Shakedown. They're considering donating to the local public schools next year, as well.