An organization of motorcycle riders whose motto is “Be a buddy, not a bully,” is expanding its support network into the North Okanagan-Shuswap.
The non-profit group Bikers Are Buddies is looking to get established in the region and some of its members are planning to be at the Log Barn, at 4728 Highway 97A (north of Armstrong), on Friday, July 24, to help raise awareness.
“The Log Barn is allowing us to bring our bikes and set up and hand out swag and that kind of thing to kids and families to bring awareness that we’re in the area between Vernon and Salmon Arm,” said Bikers Are Buddies activity co-ordinator Jamie Wlasenko. “We’re just trying to let the community know there’s support for their kids if they’re being bullied.”
The group made its presence known in the Shuswap in May 2019 when members of Edmonton’s Bikers Are Buddies joined riders from the group Bullyin Enns on a trip to Chase, B.C., where they made some noise in support of an elementary school student who had been the victim of bullying. Following a rally, the motorcycle groups enjoyed a barbecue with members of the community.
Wlasenko explained Bikers Are Buddies was co-founded by its presidents Jay and Vanessa Sullivan. Their son Jack, who was diagnosed with autism, was being bullied and little was being done to help.
“The schools wouldn’t help him and he was often being blamed because he processed things differently,” the Sullivan’s explain on the Bikers Are Buddies Facebook page.
“Jay decided he and his buddies would take care of the situation and it just kind of bloomed into helping other kids,” said Wlasenko.
Riders with Bikers Are Buddies undergo a mandatory criminal background check as well as Canadian Red Cross training for first aid, and bullying and harassment prevention.
“We do work with the police, the ministry, that sort of thing, so we’re not butting heads with authorities,” explained Wlasenko. “If there’s a problem and a kid calls our phone number… we have a procedure that we go through. If the police need to be called we go that direction. If we can go and just drive by a playground or something and neutralize the situation, we can do that. It just depends on the situation.”
Wlasenko said the group recently came to the aid of a young girl who was being bullied at a skatepark. Wlasenko contacted some of her fellow Bikers Are Buddies riders and arranged to spend a day at the skatepark with the girl.
“Everybody saw she has friends behind her, biker friends,” laughed Wlasenko, “And it seemed to make a big impact and she hasn’t been bothered since.
“We just try to help out and just kind of make a presence. We don’t really interfere if we don’t have to, and if we do then we contact the police.”
Wlasenko said arrangements, including times, were still being arranged for the July 24 event at the Log Barn. For more information, visit the Bikers Are Buddies Shuswap Facebook page.