They may look scary outfitted in leather and straddling their bikes, but only child abusers need be afraid.
By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
The quiet of a summer Saturday afternoon erupted with the sound of motorcycles roaring up Dunsmore Avenue.
The black vested gang turned into Dunsmore Park, climbed off their bikes and approached the picnic area where children were playing.
Suddenly from behind a nearby tree a water balloon sailed across the park, exploding on one of the bikers.
“Gotcha!” shouted a boy of about 10 as he darted away to get more latex ammunition.
The newly baptized biker grinned as he shook the excess water off his clothes then went in search of his own water balloons.
Certainly not a typical way that bikers are greeted, but these are not typical bikers. They’re members of BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse, and they exist to protect children.
Started in 1995, BACA works in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children, but the black vested members are able to interact with the kids on a much more personal level.
“If the child has a nightmare, for example, the chapter will come out,” explained BACA child liaison Tinkerbell.
BACA members are known to the children by road names they’re christened with when they’re accepted into the organization. Tinkerbell and her husband Biker Dad are Crescenta Valley residents who have been involved with the organization for several years. The summer picnic at Dunsmore Park was just one outreach event that the BACA chapter holds for their “adopted” kids.
Adoptions are available for children under the age of 18 and are prompted by the child’s parent or guardian or a member of a child protection agency that is handling a minor’s case. The children have experienced some type of abuse and BACA adoptions are a response to the child’s fright or to assist a guardian who needs help. After the initial contact is made, a home visit is arranged by the BACA liaison. If it is determined that BACA could be of service and all parties welcome the connection, an adoption is arranged.
It is mandatory for chapter members to attend an adoption, explained Tinkerbell, but getting the adults there is usually not an issue. “It is most rewarding,” she said of the process.
The child is given the names and numbers of two BACA members who are geographically closest. This is important because BACA members need to be able to ride on a moment’s notice if a child is in danger and needs help.
“We’re there to protect them, like we would for our own blood,” explained Biker Dad.
Though the organization doesn’t condone violence, it will not hesitate to show up en masse to exhibit support for a child in need. For example, BACA members have accompanied kids to therapy sessions and have even ridden to court when their child had to testify.
“When she saw her BACA family,” recounted Tinkerbell of one of the chapter’s adoptees who had to testify against an abuser, “she ran – literally ran – to her BACA family.” Tinkerbell added that the child saw the support she needed to do the tough things she had to do to get through her journey.
It’s not hard to understand why the children would gravitate toward the bikers. Clad in leather vests – referred to as “cuts” – the bikers exude power and a no baloney attitude focused on a single mission: to guard and protect their charges.
But getting government support can be challenging.
“Agencies in charge of helping kids don’t know about us,” explained Biker Dad.
“Once the public knows about us, we get a great response,” said Bulldog, another BACA rider. “[We get] phenomenal support once they know about us.”
Another plus for the organization is that its members are not fringe elements of society; many are professionals. Once they take off their cuts, they resume their lives as lawyers, contractors, chefs, and more. They’ve all had extensive background checks and must attend monthly meetings to learn about the organization before applying for membership. Local meetings are held in Van Nuys on the first Saturday of the month from 10 a.m. to noon.
But Chef, another BACA member, made it clear that the commitment is not something to be taken lightly. “Be ready to commit,” he said. “This is not something you [only] show up for a once a month meeting.”
The commitment can take an emotional toll on its members like when 300 BACA bikers rode north for a memorial service for one of their kids.
Chef recalled that when they arrived, the only available seating was with the child’s classmates, all 7-8 years old. “We were all sitting there, bawling,” he recalled.
While they know they can’t take care of all the pain a child is going through, Tinkerbell explained that BACA members are eager to do what they can.
“We can’t tell [a child] that we’ll make it better,” she said, “but we can promise to always be there.”