FNN charity ride: Small event with big impact

Fifteen motorcycle riders plus dozens of non-riding contributors raised more than $5,000 for the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund and Friends of Patients at the NIH.

I dedicated the ride to Lenny Loewentritt, the recently deceased deputy general counsel of the General Services Administration. A public servant par excellence, he inspired pretty much everyone who came in contact with him.

The fundraising drive culminated in a parade of motorcycles departing Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, Virginia, on Friday. We snaked through the northern Virginia suburbs before zooming up the George Washington Parkway. After a short Beltway ride we resumed the easier pace on River Road in Montgomery County, Maryland, eventually making our way to Military Road in Washington, D.C. And from there into Rock Creek Park for ceremonies and lunch in one of the well-maintained picnic groves.

I was glad to see, among the riders, a mixture of federal employees, contractors, and a few “civvies” who caught our last minute blitz. Having taken up motorcycling late in life, I quickly came to realize how much riders like to congregate, and if there’s a purpose so much the better. But mainly we talk about motorcycles.

As someone who has tended to keep professional and personal lives somewhat walled off, I decided to let that go a little, combining riding, Federal News Network, and two organizations worthy of support.

I’ve discovered many people in the federal sphere who also ride. Thus one of the early signers-on to the event was none other than Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. Alas, he was called to a White House COVID-19 meeting, in which he participated from a secure facility. But Collins got aboard his Harley and rode down to hang around and chat with the group. He said he sometimes gets chided for being both the nation’s top health official and a motorcycle rider. But with care, he said, they’re not incompatible.

The incomparable Beth Ann Telford of the Government Publishing Office arrived, just to see us off, arriving in her “Italian red” Vespa scooter (sort of a hot cinnamon) — not a vehicle seen as a rule in the parking lot of a Harley-Davidson dealer.  I remarked to a few guys standing around that it might look like a girly scooter, but that its owner once ran a marathon on seven continents in seven days while battling brain cancer. Long time readers can see Beth Ann and a slightly slimmer me in a story about her from 2017.

(Video by Peter Musurlian)

For me this was a learning experience. For one thing, I’ve never led a ride; I’ve always been a bike in the middle of the pack. But long time fed-and-industry guy Barry West, and NASA’s Ron Thompson rode at the back of the pack to help ensure everyone got through the traffic lights and made the turns. Barry’s bike is fire-engine red. So I could look back in my rearview mirrors and see when the bright red fender appeared.

I also learned, first hand, you can get good federal agency customer experience — a callout to Jamie Euken and Marisa Richardson of the National Park Service for how professionally they handled my permit application for Picnic Grove #10. Because of the vicissitudes of operating during a pandemic, I didn’t know whether I could have the event until D.C. moved to Phase Two of its reopening, which would mean I could have more than 10 people gather. Jamie and Marisa kept me apprised of the status of everything and always answered email promptly.

But the effort also reaffirmed something I knew, namely that this is a generous marketplace of committed individuals.

Those who donated can know that every dollar went to the beneficiary organizations. That is thanks to the many people who helped me put this together:

  • Joyce Warner and Robyn Kehoe from FEEA, who let us use their donation collection technology
  • Heidi Williams of Friends, who helped promote the event.
  • Amanda Huelskamp of WAEPA for promotional support including email blasts
  • Kevin Hardy of Patriot Harley-Davidson for letting us use his parking lot on a busy weekday morning to stage the ride.
  • Tom Suder of the Advanced Technology Academic Research Center for providing lunch
  • Members of the Federal News Network staff including producers Eric White and Peter Musurlian for many tasks beyond their normal duties; technician Zach Shore for delivering everything to the end point; Elizabeth Rowe for marketing and collateral support; Executive Editor Jason Miller for water and moral support; SVP and General Manager Joel Oxley for authorizing financial support and on-air promotion on WFED 1500 AM and WTOP 103.5 FM.

We’ll see you all next year!