The pain of losing a child is unfathomable. While most people would try to bury the infinite sadness in a dark corner of their memory, one special woman opens those old wounds up every year as she champions the cause of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Each October for the last 12 years Dayle Mallory-Bell relives the loss of her dear daughter Brittney to cancer at the precious age of 18, wearing her vulnerability openly as she turns her personal tragedy into a beacon of hope and light for others. Brittney made her mom promise to remain strong. And while she’ll downplay the notion, Dayle is strong.
This beacon has raised over $400,000 for St. Jude’s to-date. In 2015, donations tallied $93,442, pushing totals toward the half-million mark. The live auction this year raised $35,360 by itself and thousands more poured in from event ticket sales, a silent auction, 50/50 raffles, heads-or-tails games, a prize wheel, raffles for a Hawaiian vacation and mini-chopper, along with outright donations to the cause.
Thunderstruck’s Mark Daley takes the mic to give details on the “Dragon Slayer” guitar his team built from scratch.
Championing the cause is the biker community. They came from near and far, Washington, California, Arizona. One couple was from England. Dayle’s husband Dan deserves much of the credit for getting the motorcycling community involved. The two got together because Dan kept asking her to go for a ride with him on his Harley. The idea for the Brittney Ride was spawned while the two were attending an annual “Toys for Tots” ride. Since its modest inception, the Brittney Ride has been a true testament to the benevolent nature of bikers.
There were several storylines at the 12th annual Brittney Ride to support this statement. There’s the biker who bought a t-shirt in the auction from Harley-Davidson of Saigon. The man came onstage and shared that his father had fought in the Vietnam War. Since his father is no longer alive he called a gentleman he had met earlier that day up on stage, an Old Guard rider who was also a veteran of the Vietnam War, and presented him the t-shirt, tears filling the eyes of both men. Then there’s the story of the guitar signed by all members of Fleetwood Mac. An anonymous bidder offered $3000 for the guitar right out of the gate. At such a high starting point, nobody else bid and he won the guitar for $3000. The anonymous bidder then selflessly donated the guitar back to the auction because his wife had recently died of cancer. Second go-round, a bidding war broke out until the guitar sold for $3200, raising a total of $6200. Jason Allen, a deejay from local station country station Q100.3 and emcee of the live auction, shared his touching story of a chance meeting between him and a young girl named Bailey from nearby Grants Pass who had called the station about her friend who was at St. Jude’s in Memphis.
Dayle-Mallory Bell proudly displays the guitar up for auction that had been signed by Reba.
Then there’s the crew of Thunderstruck Custom Bikes, Mark Daley and Travis Linebaugh. The bike shop out of Medford, Oregon, is a long-time supporter of The Brittney Ride and never hesitates to step up to support just causes. They host their own street party and bike show annually to raise money for the Boys & Girls Club, are currently retro-fitting a motorcycle for a wounded veteran so he can ride again, yet still found time to customize two guitars for The Brittney Ride’s live auction.
For the first one, they took an old guitar Allen salvaged from the Q100.3 closet and gave it a cool hot rod makeover, incorporating gauges into its body while giving it the NOS treatment and custom paint. The team took something that was basically headed to the trash bin and turned it into a collectible piece of art. The nitrous-injected guitar raised a generous $1500.
But “Team Thunder’s” crowning achievement was the one-off guitar it created from scratch out of billet aluminum. When contemplating what to build this year, a dragon theme popped into Daley’s head. It took a team to execute his vision, from Butch Gilbert at ECS Case to painter Jason Titus to Thunder Struck staples Linebaugh and Big Tim. The intricate pattern required 70 hours of machining at ECS Case and 20 hours of paint meticulously applied by Titus. With a dragon on the front and a battle-ax wielding, Frazetta-style warrior on back, the stunning guitar was appropriately named “Dragon Slayer.”
This is what your face looks like after your husband bids $5000 on a guitar.
It didn’t take long for a fierce bidding war to break out for the guitar. The crowd clapped and cheered as the price went up and up, four, five, six-thousand dollars. It reached a crescendo with Mike and Lori Suffridge’s winning $7000 bid. The Suffridges, owners of a wildland suppression team called Diamond Fire Company, were the highest bidders for Thunderstruck’s homemade guitar last year as well.
“The live auction was by far the best and most amazing one to date!” said Mallory-Bell.
The first item on the live auction block was a guitar signed by country artist Luke Bryan that sold for $525. I had my eye on a drum head signed by Lynyrd Skynyrd that ultimately auctioned for $330. The bidding really gained steam when a Motley Crue-signed guitar went up for sale, the price peaking at $1375. Football packages, including tickets to games and a bounty of team schwag, drew premium prices, the Seahawks bundle raising $725 while the Ducks package sold for $825.Harley-Davidson t-shirts from international dealerships are always a hot ticket item, the one from Nelspruits, South Africa, raising $225. A collection called “The Mother Lode” that included a t-shirt from all five Harley-Davidson dealerships in Alaska sold for $450.
Mike and Lori Suffridge (couple on the right) are all smiles after winning the Thunderstruck custom guitar with a $7000 bid.
While raising money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is at the core of The Brittney Ride, the weekend-long event does so in an atmosphere of fun and friendship. It starts with a social hour Friday night, noshing on prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and jumbo shrimp, topped off with the option to catch a concert at host venue Seven Feathers Hotel & Casino. This year’s headliner was Atlanta Rhythm Section, led by founding member Dean Daughtry on keyboard and Rodney Justo on vocals. As the band journeyed through its song list of hits including “Into You, Imaginary Lover, and Spooky,” many of the crowd sang along, memories associated with the songs apparent in their expressions. The band’s current guitarists, David Anderson and Steve Stone, are an extremely talented duo who dazzled with their fast fingers dancing on frets.
The next day was the annual poker run. Riders had the option of venturing on three different routes, a short run to scenic South Umpqua Falls, a medium-length ride to resort destination Diamond Lake, or a longer adventure to Bandon Beach. With visions of a warm serving of clam chowder in a bread bowl dancing in my head, I opted for the beach despite it being the one location projecting a possibility of rain.
Without a cloud in the sky, I set out on the 100-mile ride for the Oregon coast along with my wife Angelyne on her Sporty, my friend Ted on his Road Glide, and a new acquaintance, Rick Benjamin, on his Ultra Classic. Not 10 miles in I got stung by a bee, his dying act to bury his stinger in the soft flesh of my neck. This didn’t detract from enjoying the beauty of the Oregon countryside as we rode, burnt reds and yellows of deciduous trees blended amidst the green pines. The closer we got to the coast, the harder the wind blew. On the last stretch before Bandon, trees canopied the road and 30-40 mph wind gusts howled as we traveled through tunnels of swirling leaves, sticks and debris. Low-lying clouds raced overhead with unbelievable speed.
The calm before the storm. This is what the Oregon countryside looked like before we got blasted by the remnants of Hurricane Oho.
By the time we hit Bandon, the horizon over the ocean was purple and foreboding. We rode out to the point of a jetty to snap a few shots and to watch the growing surf pound the shore. After only a few pictures, drops of rain began to pelt the bikes. By the time we geared up, sheets of rain poured down from the sky before we could even get off the jetty as the remnants of Hurricane Oho swept ashore. We scurried out of town, thinking we could quickly get ahead of the storm if we just headed east. No such luck. Rain and wind pounded us relentlessly for the next hour. We chased the patch of blue sky we could see off in the distance but it seemed to remain teasingly just out of range. We finally pushed through, soaked to the bone but safe, as we headed back to the casino and shared a laugh about our spate of luck. But it made for a memorable ride. It gave my wife an opportunity to ride in heavy rain for the very first time and she weathered it like a seasoned veteran. Even though it was the first time we had ridden together, Rick was a trooper and took it all in stride. What started as an acquaintance was now a friend.
Luckily the hearty cuts of prime rib they were carving at the banquet that night further warmed our spirits. Seven Feathers knows how to host a proper party. The live auction followed, and while the bidding started slow, by the time Thunderstruck brought out “Dragon Slayer” the room was alive with energy. With thoughts of the children of St. Jude’s in their minds, people gave generously en route to a record-breaking evening. On occasion, photographs of Brittney popped up on projection screens at the front of the room that rotated through pictures of past events. Her mother Dayle carries on a mission in her memory, a mission 12 years strong. While we all wish she were still among us, we know Brittney would be proud of what’s being achieved in her honor.
- Gary the Balloon guy said the girl balloon was Dayle, so we'll assume the other is Dan?
- This guy stood on his chair to make sure his bid was seen during the Brittney Ride's live auction.
- People had a ton of fun dressing up at the photo booth.
- This is the face of a guy who knows how to have fun!