At about the same time as the Penner family and 90 of its closest friends were jumping on motorcycles and heading off on a 200-kilometre ride through the Fraser Valley Sunday, other friends and family in Brazil, Newfoundland, Alaska, and even California were doing the same.
A fundraising ride that started - and continues to be the biggest right here in Langley - is going global, explained founder Cam Penner.
It's called Ride For Doug, and it's intended to raise money and awareness for people living with muscular dystrophy - people like his son and the ride's namesake, nine-year-old Doug Penner of Walnut Grove.
This ride was started six years ago in Langley when motorcycle enthusiast Cam Penner invited 16 other riders out for an afternoon ride followed by a celebratory barbecue.
Fast forward to 2012. And on Sunday afternoon, the annual ride drew 88 riders - the most ever - from all over the Lower Mainland and generated a little more than $15,000 for the cause - again the largest amount in the event's history.
While all the riders were psyched to be there, none were more excited than young Doug who was champing at the bit to be harnessed up with Dad and to get on the road.
Doug has a genetic disorder that weakens and destroys his muscle tissues faster than his body can repair them. He was two-and-a-half when he was diagnosed with always fatal Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
While Doug appears a typically fun-loving, happy boy, thanks to a regime of treatments, the disease is taking its toll on this little gaffer, limiting his ability to climb, run, or jump like most of his Langley Christian School classmates. So going on a ride of this length is tough, but he came through Sunday like a trooper.
"Doug rode the whole route again this year - and these riding years are blessings we need to make count - and felt fine at the end of it. He even insisted on riding home with me instead of going in the support vehicle," Dad said.
"He also encouraged me to do 20 laps of the Murrayville Five Corners roundabout," Penner added, apologizing to Murrayville residents who were forced to withstand the noise as the entire bike troupe actually did five laps.
Not only does this ride honour the strength, determination, and postive will of young Doug and his father, but moreover Dad says it raises money and awareness for MD, and their entire family is touched to see the concept going international.
The Ride For Doug has spread into the U.S. this year, Penner said, noting he's still waiting for confirmation pictures to arrive from Alaska and California.
And while 18-year-old Kenya Suhan is in Canada studying right now, she was able to again be part of the local ride on Sunday. The significance is that her family - which participated in a previous ride in Langley a few years back - were hosting a Ride For Doug in Pernabucho, Brazil, this weekend.
"It started last year because our family really liked to participate, and it shows our support for Doug. We thought we'd start our own ride in Brazil," Suhan told the Langley Advance before she jumped on the back of a motorcycle.
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While her father managed to entice a few more friends to get involved in this year's Brazil ride, she's convinced that leg of Ride For Doug will continue to grow. By the time she's finished her schooling and returns home, Suhan predicts the Brazil event will outstrip the numbers enjoyed at the original Ride for Doug.
The spread doesn't end there. Doug's uncle Darren Esau (his mother's brother) was part of the local ride for years, before moving in the Maritimes.
Last year he became what they call a remote rider, weathering miserable fog that restricted his visibility to almost nil. Despite the poor road conditions during the inaugural ride in Newfoundland, Esau has vowed to continue and possibly grow the Ride For Doug on the East Coast.
"It's very informal," Penner said of his global outreach. "My long-term dream is to see them spring up around the world, all in aid of muscular dystrophy._"
A couple missionaries in Africa and France participated in past, and another friend in Melbourne, Australia was on the road last year - but couldn't join in this time around, Penner explained.
While hopeful it will blossom into something much bigger, an exhausted Penner said he's committed to keep growing the fundraiser (www.ridefordoug.com).
"As a family we were deeply moved by the experience yet again," Penner said. "You have to experience first hand riding in a column of motorcycles as far back as the eye can see - knowing that they are riding in support of your family. That is powerful."
ù Cam Penner's account of the day is available atwww.langleyadvance.com
A look in the rearview mirror: Ride For Doug 2012
by Cam Penner
Special to the Langley Advance
Today is the morning after the sixth annual Ride For Doug.
What an experience.
The day starts in an empty parking lot. A cool breeze blows, and the clouds tease us with hints of rain.
A deep rumble begins, but rather than rain bringing thunder, it is the sound of riders beginning to arrive.
Black leather, shining chrome. The smell of power. I close my eyes, taking in the sensations, holding the hand of the boy that made it happen.
Today is Doug's day. These are his friends arriving.
Bike after bike arrives.
Riders from all points of the compass, harking news of the weather. A drizzle here, a cool breeze there. Nothing that can stop these riders from coming.
They are here for Ride For Doug.
Doug is on cloud nine. He wanders from rider to rider with a keen sense of purpose.
He remembers who has come before, and welcomes those who have come for the first time. Bikes are admired, and many questions are asked and answered by patient bikers with soft hearts.
And still they arrive.
The black and chrome is punctuated by bright flashes of colour. It doesn't matter what style of bike you ride today. Long sweeping cruisers intermingle with high strung sport bikes, a peppering of dual purpose bikes providing a dirty contrast to the gleam and shine.
Once assembled, the ride is ready to move out.
Eighty-eight bikes speak with but a single voice.
Eighty-eight bikes forming a column of support stronger than any bridge girder, and stretching further than the eye can see.
Doug rides up at the front with me.
His sister Samantha, on a bike beside him. His mother Allison, on a bike behind him.
I can feel him taking it in, turning to watch the long snake of bikes travel up and down the undulating road.
This is the point where I am usually moved to tears.
This show of support strikes deep to the core.
There is nothing in the world that can match such an overwhelming experience.
And it's not just the riders. To get to this point has been hours and hours of work by a multitude of volunteers. Showing their support with the horsepower of their actions. They are with us on the road - perhaps not on two wheels, but definitely in spirit.
We head through the roads of Langley, Abbotsford, and cross into Mission.
The weather is holding, the leather staying dry. Our first stop approaches.
At the BC Hydro recreation area by Ruskin dam - the riders are greeted by an enthusiastic team of volunteers pointing the way and cheering us on.
I can feel Doug's face beaming behind me.
Nearly a hundred bikes stream into the lot, and the riders dismount for a stretch.
Stories are being shared with friends and strangers alike, and smiles abound.
The volunteer team at the rest stop provides water - enthusiastically delivered to the riders by two boys around Doug's age.
This is not their first Ride For Doug either. These bearers of water have volunteered before, and have taken the spirit of the ride throughout their year - bearing the flag of muscular dystrophy on behalf of Doug.
Another highlight takes place here.
Doug's sister, Samantha, and her grandmother, have spent the weekend baking cookies. Riders who are RFD veterans make a beeline for her basket. The smiles grow. Three hundred cookies are consumed faster than the starting grid at a Grand Prix race.
It seems Samantha has found her own way to support Doug, and Allison and I feel a swelling of pride as sibling rivalry takes a back seat - at least for today.
Back onto the road we go, twisting and turning through Mission and some of my favourite streets.
The pavement here isn't as smooth, and the corners are tight and blind. These roads remind me of the challenges that muscular dystrophy families face continually. A bumpy ride through life, never knowing what is around the next bend. Gripping the bars and doing our best to navigate through a never ending series of challenges.
But then I hear it - the sound of exhaust echoing off the hills beside the road. The thunder that tells me that I'm not riding alone up here. My loved ones are close, and the community has gathered to ride behind me. We can do this together.
An hour or so later, we pull into the second rest stop.
Through a quirk of fate, some of the riders near the back took a shortcut and ended up here first.
We arrive to the sight of 50+ bikes lined up and waiting, their riders just dismounting.
We share some laughs, and swap some stories of the road. New friendships are forged in the common experience. Happy volunteers spread water to thirsty riders, and their vibrant excitement (and fluorescent shirts) raise our spirits further. These are some of Doug's SEAs from school - joining in the celebration, and showing that they too are on Doug's team fighting muscular dystrophy.
One more leg of the ride to go.
Another mile long rolling demonstration of resolve. "We must beat muscular dystrophy," that is what the engines are saying. "We must beat muscular dystrophy."
My heart is strengthened with each mile. How can we not beat it with support like this?
What disease dares to stand a chance in the face of Doug and his biker army?
The miles fall away, and almost too soon we arrive back.
The sun, greeting us as it pushes away the last of the clouds. But not just the sun - the parking holds another radiant sight. Friends, family, and a host of others greet the returning riders with standing applause. As the bikes roll in, one after another, their engine still singing their song, the riders are treated to a royal arrival. Because they are all heroes: Doug's heroes.
We move inside to a barbecue, a welcome sight to the hungry riders.
Tables fill with a mixture of more than 300 riders and non-riders alike, and stories are swapped.
Bridges are built across cultures, and friendships are established in a common cause.
The mosaic of people is as colourful as the bikes parked outside.
We have riders, extended family, friends. Nurses and researchers from BC Children's Hospital. Doug's classmates, teachers, and administration. Local government is represented.
We have families in the midst of their own battles with muscular dystrophy, and those who have lost loved ones to the disease. Doug's new friends are welcomed, and added to the mix.
We celebrate with food, and with door prizes.
We recognize the generosity of our volunteers and our sponsors - many of whom actually ride with us. I have the opportunity to share a bit of what it is like for our family, as we are currently involved in a research project to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
I think I managed to hold back the tears this year, mostly. This year, the proceeds of the ride will be used to fund research for a cure to muscular dystrophy.
And then, it is back to the parking lot where we started. Doug insists on seeing each bike off. Thanking them for their support - for the courage to face another year.
As the engines fade away, their cry can still be heard in the distance: "We must beat muscular dystrophy. We must beat muscular dystrophy."