Seven-year-old inspires bikers with Ride for Doug

Living with a child who has Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is like riding a motorcycle, says father Cam Penner. “Blind corners, potholes, cars in coming lanes or lurking in driveways – danger and uncertainty line the road ahead.”

But with Ride for Doug, the Penner family isn’t travelling the road alone. The yearly 200-km motorbike ride down back roads of Langley, Abbotsford, and Mission, B.C., raises money for Muscular Dystrophy Canada to find a cure for the disease.

At two and a half, Doug Penner was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Muscular Dystrophy is a genetic disorder that gradually weakens the body, as incorrect or missing genetic information prevents it from making the proteins needed to build and maintain healthy muscles. Life expectancy is usually 20–30 years.

Seven-year-old Doug will eventually lose the ability to walk, sit upright, breathe easily, and move his arms and hands. Though currently in good condition for his diagnosis, he is well below his peers in physical skill. Simple tasks like buttoning his pants take all his effort, and he lacks the core strength to easily perform activities requiring balance, like climbing stairs or riding a bike.

Doug’s parents Cam and Allison, and a growing host of motorbike enthusiasts do the bike riding for him once a year through Ride for Doug. In 2007, 17 bikers raised $2,100 for MD. The second year, more riders brought in four times the amount, and last year’s ride, with 74 bikes and 2 scooters, raised $10,000 toward finding a cure.

The local Ride for Doug ends with a barbecue at the Penners’ home church, South Langley Community Church. A short program features door prizes, live music, and some education on the disease and the work of Muscular Dystrophy Canada. In 2009, an additional 150 people welcomed the riders back.

Participants in the Ride for Doug, scheduled this year for June 6, don’t have to be in British Columbia. Riders in Poland, the U.S., and other Canadian provinces have dedicated miles to Doug and MD research. In 2007, authors of the motorcycle saga, Long Way Around, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman dedicated some of their miles to Doug, as they journeyed through Malawi, Africa, for a sequel production, Long Way Down.

Penner says the ride makes Doug a hero for the day. It also gives Cam and Allison “the gift of support” from their community, church, and bikers.

Through the event, Penner introduced his church family to his motorcycle family, and brought the MD world into the mix. “Seeing the members of our church working hard, side-by-side with members of the motorcycle associations, for a common cause has provided a powerful insight into why Christ emphasized service so heavily,” says Penner.

The ride also gives Penner the opportunity to explain his faith. “God has a plan,” says Penner. “I don’t know what it is, but when almost a hundred motorcycles show up at your church to support your child, you know he has a hand in there somewhere.”

Karla Braun, with files from Vonnie Mostat. More information can be found at www.RideforDoug.com.

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