When abused kids feel afraid, these bikers bring them into their family to show them they're never alone - and help them overcome their fear. Meet the Bikers Against Child Abuse, in their own words.
Note: For the protection of their members and the kids they work with, the members of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) use their "road names" instead of their real names when speaking on behalf of the group.
"Coach," member of Bikers Against Child Abuse, Fox Valley Chapter
My day job is a teacher, my part-time job 'cause I'm a teacher is hockey. And then the rest of my life is Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA.
We got started in 1995 by a child play therapist. He was working with abused kids. He realized that, you know, they were great when he was there, but then they'd go back into their homes and neighborhoods or whatever, and that fear would still be there.
He grew up with bikers. He knew what it was like to be with bikers, so he got a bunch of his friends to go visit the kid, and it worked.
"Hammer," President of BACA, Fox Valley Chapter
Kids are so innocent, and it's a shame that people take that away from them. Our goal is to bring that child to not be afraid in the world in
which they live. We bring our whole family together and we welcome them into our family.
The biker community brings its own persona, you know, and seein' 40 motorcycles pull up and a bunch of men and women in leather vests and stuff get off their bikes, I think when the kids see us, it gives them the sense that my family is a lot bigger, a lot scarier than what happened to 'em.
After the second, third, fourth, fifth visit, these kids come completely out of their shell and you can just see, see the fear go away.
We actually give the kid their own little cut with their road name like we have, and on the back is a patch. Inside, we all sign it so that they know that we have their back at all times. We visit them regularly, we escort them to court and we actually have a couple events throughout the year that they can attend and meet other kids like them as well.
Fear is something that no other organization addresses, but we can do that pretty well based on the nature of who we are. Bikers really have a heart of gold anyway, and the kids really understand that intuitively. What we're doing is we're creating a stable presence that helps address their fear. And I think it's that relationship that we build with them is what helps that fear go away, more than anything else.
We're not here to intimidate the perpetrator, that's not our job. We could care less about the perpetrator. We're here to make sure that kid isn't scared.
They can call us whenever they need us and we'll pick up the phone. It could be at 1:30 in the morning because they woke up from a nightmare, or they heard something outside their window. Sometimes it's just a conversation, but every once in a while they need us to come on out and we'll get on the bike and we'll go out.
I've left my house at all hours of the night, stood out in the cold, snow, you name it, doesn't matter. We're there, and we're always on our bikes.
We cover all of just about northern Illinois east to Indiana. We have members that come all the way down from Fox Lake, Gurnee area, we have members that come up from Melrose Park. We have IT people to construction workers to teachers to truck drivers, I think you name the profession we've pretty much got it nailed down.
I have never experienced abuse or anything along those lines. People decide to join for all kinds of reasons, some people have gone through abuse as a child, some people haven't, some people have siblings or a child that has gone through it.
Each kid is assigned a couple primaries who handle their case. We carry our kids around with us (points to beads with names hanging from his vest), and they carry us with them as well.
It's very hard to become a BACA member. There's actually a lot of training involved. We don't want to make a mistake and make what's happening to them even worse. And there's a lot of vetting.
Now we're in like 17 countries, over 300 chapters. We have six chapters here in Illinois.
The most terrifying thing I think for the kid is to have to get up on a stand and talk about what happened to them. It's really tough to sit there and listen to what these kids have gone through.
But them speaking out and telling their story is a win, regardless of what the verdict is.
We'll usually escort the child and the family to the courthouse. Once we get there, we surround the kid, walk them into the courthouse, and if they get up on the stand and they say what they need to say, then that's a win in our book.
Anyone else would say that the best part was when they put the guy in handcuffs and walked him out the door. But we don't care about the perpetrator, we care about the kid.
It's a great feeling, I mean, knowing that I've helped a lot of these kids get through what they've gone through. I mean our goal is to empower them, so they don't need us, so they can move on and live their life to their full potential.
I think I'm gonna keep going until I can't ride no more. My goal is to help every kid that we can possibly help.
Probably the biggest thing that I hear from parents is, "you gave me my kid back." Once they realize that we mean what we say, they start to relax and they start to open up and they start to be themselves again.
Kids get a raw deal sometimes. You know, when I see it where I teach I can't help the kids in this way. But as BACA, I can.
These interviews have been edited for content.