Dayle Mallory-Bell made a promise to her daughter Brittany, a promise she has worked hard for the last 14 years and 11 Brittney Rides to keep.
Guitars signed by top recording artists always bring in a lot of money for St. Jude’s during the Brittney Ride’s auction.
Dayle Mallory-Bell made a promise. The promise was to her 18-year-old daughter Brittney, a lilting butterfly who was taken from this world way too soon. As Brittney’s life was coming to an end, an inoperable brain tumor mercilessly claiming her life, Brittney made her mom promise to remain strong. In spite of this tragedy, Dayle has indeed remained strong.
For the past 11 years, she and her husband Dan have held a celebration of life in honor of her departed daughter. With the love and support of the motorcycling community, the duo have coordinated the Brittany Ride for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. For one weekend each October, the Brittney Ride is a place where friends, family, and strangers come together for a common cause, driven by the desire to help children in need. To date, the ride has raised over $360,000 for the cause, and by the time this year’s contributions are tallied, no doubt that total will crest the $400,000 mark.
This is accomplished by holding a poker run, through over 130 items sold at silent auction, and by guitars signed by big name recording artists that draw big bids in a live auction. This year’s offerings included Brad Paisley, Florida Georgia Line, Seether, Blake Shelton and others. It is achieved by 50/50 raffles, heads-or-tails games, by spinning the wheel for prizes at $5-a-pop. Some give big, others small, but they all give in one form or another, opening both their pocketbooks and their hearts.
But Dayle and Dan don’t go it alone, something Dayle is quick to point out. It takes 60 volunteers to make The Brittney Ride happen. Help comes from sources like A&M Transport, an Oregon trucking company who helped secure the guitars used in the auction. There’s local radio talent Jason Allen from station Q100.3 who doggedly pursues stars hoping to get them to scribble their names on those guitars. Allen also works tirelessly as emcee and auctioneer during the live bidding. D&S Harley-Davidson sponsors the poker run, while Motorcycle Superstore annually supplies the fun schwag bags everyone receives. Seven Feathers Casino Resort always steps up big-time as the gracious host to the event, opening its doors to hundreds of bikers, cutting us a break on rooms, feeding us like kings. Seven Feathers staff always goes above and beyond. Their marketing director Nicole is a prime example, who never hesitates to make sure Dayle’s requests are met. This year she even played an instrumental role in getting a guitar signed by Zac Brown’s entire band. While on the surface the event always goes off without a hitch, it takes an army of volunteers to make it happen.
This year’s event started with an evening social Friday night followed by a performance by the band America. With a repertoire spanning over 44 years, it was a sing-along of popular radio and folk tunes, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell strumming away through hits like “Sister Golden Hair,” “Lonely People” and “Horse with No Name.” The party filtered into Seven Feathers casino afterwards, bells ringing, lights flashing and the roulette wheel spinning away.
The next morning, the annual Brittney Ride poker run was held, this time venturing on a different course along the scenic South Umpqua River over Tiller Trail Highway. With the first fall yellows and reds in the leaves of the trees reflecting on the water, the poker run made stops at Days Creek Post Office before ending at South Umpqua Falls, a popular Oregon swimming hole during the summer. It then ventured back to Seven Feathers Casino for the final card draw. Somehow though, weather forecasters didn’t get Dayle’s request right as what was supposed to be a sun-filled, 78-degree day was drizzly and chilly. Tiller Trail Highway had road fresh oil in spots, constructions zones and dirt stretches in others, while patches of gravel and broken pavement greeted riders closer to the falls. Fortunately, it wasn’t a fair weather bunch of bikers who braved the first chill in the Oregon air as they rode on despite the weather.
That evening, Brittney Ride participants were able to warm their bellies with slabs of prime rib and music by local artists The Fret Drifters, the duo of Andy Casad and Nick Garrett-Powell a pleasure to watch and listen to as their fingers danced magically on the necks of their acoustic guitars.
Then it was time to get down to serious business and raise money for St. Jude’s during the live auction. Harley-Davidson t-shirts from around the world were a hot commodity, one from Canberra, Australia auctioning for $140 while another from Bangkok, Thailand went for $90. An Oregon Ducks package, including four game tickets, a private tour of their world-class facilities, a tailgate party, pre-game, on-field access, and overnight accommodations brought in $1100.
There was spirited bidding for the Rascal Flats-signed guitar, which ended up selling for $1150. This pattern repeated itself for the one signed by Blake Shelton, the signature of the red-hot country star ringing up a winning $1400 bid.
But the star of the night was Mark Daley of Thunder Struck Custom Bikes and his supporting cast who put the hot rod treatment on one guitar and built another one from scratch out of billet aluminum. The “Thunder Struck Rat Guitar” came complete with faux exhaust ports, gauges, a piston for a whammy bar and a tribal flame paint job.
The one-off guitar Thunder Struck built from the ground-up was a real work of art. What began as a chunk of billet had been shaved down to an axe like no other, with aggressive signature Thunder Struck edges surrounding cut-outs and inlays.
“I thought, OK I’ve got a bitchin’ design, let’s see if we can make it work. And we’ve got to give it a Thunder Struck twist. So we’ll do it in metal, we won’t do it out of wood, we’ll do it out of metal. Well, that wasn’t hard enough. I thought, we won’t just do it out of metal, we’ll do it out of billet aluminum, and that makes it even harder,” said Daley.
To help make it happen, Daley turned to the help of good friend Butch Gilbert of ECS Case to get the project done, the guitar requiring 40 hours of machine-time. This doesn’t account for the hours Daley put into it, in addition to who knows how long it took Bruce to polish it to a high sheen, Jesse Ruiz of Legendary Coatings to powdercoat it, and Jason Titus to apply the paint. The end result – stunning.
When the smoke settled from a furious bidding war, Lori and Mike Suffridge emerged victorious, the happy couple shelling out a hefty $5600 for the one-of-a-kind work of art, the biggest single chunk of change raised that evening for the kids of St. Jude’s. Suffridge is the head of Diamond Fire Company, a wildland suppression team that has been busy this past year with all the wildfires plaguing the West.
This is my third time taking part in the Brittney Ride, and with each passing year it makes me proud to be part of Oregon’s benevolent biker community. Every year I feel I closer to Dayle, Dan and the cause as she bravely opens herself up to old wounds. Not many people could put themselves out there like she does, and I admire her for doing so to keep the spirit of her daughter alive. Each year I learn a little more about Brittney, this time hearing her corneas were donated to a woman who got to see for the first time in her life. And as long as her mother is alive, Dayle will continue to open the eyes of people for the plight of children in need.
2014 Brittney Ride Photos