Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Bikers from throughout the state are expected to converge on Portland for an event Saturday to raise awareness for missing toddler Ayla Reynolds.
SIGN: This sign has been recently placed at 29 Violette Ave. in Waterville where Ayla Reynolds was first reported missing about eight months ago.
Staff photo by David Leaming
SUGGESTED STARTING POINTS FOR THE RIDE FOR AYLA
The Ride for Ayla will culminate 1 p.m. Saturday at a barbecue picnic at Big Moose Harley-Davidson, 375 Riverside St., but will begin earlier in the day well beyond Portland. Event organizers are encouraging participants to rendezvous at motorcycle dealerships and hangouts elsewhere in Maine and spread awareness along the way.
Ayla was reported missing from her Waterville home on Dec. 17. Investigators have said foul play is suspected in her disappearance, but no suspects have been named. Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland said Monday there are no new developments in the eight-month-old case.
Cynthia Caron, founder of LostNMissing — a nonprofit group that advocates for families of missing persons — said the biker rally for Ayla isn't just for motorcyclists, and it's not strictly about Ayla.
"You can drive a car, ride a bicycle or walk," she said.
Caron also is encouraging families of other missing persons to attend and spread their own message.
"If you have a missing loved one -- no matter how long they've been missing -- you're more than welcome to come and bring awareness of your missing loved one," she said.
Caron said at least two such families are planning to attend: the families of Fay Johnson, 62, of Bethel, who has been missing since March 7; and of Jason Reil, 33, of Brunswick, who has been missing since Jan. 12.
"The goal is for each family to have a table set up with posters and picture of their loved ones, and they can talk with the media and community so people can learn a little bit more about their missing family member."
Big Moose Harley-Davidson is preparing the barbecue lunch at a cost of $5 per person. About half of the proceeds will cover the cost of the event. The rest will be donated to LostNMissing, which will use the money to print high-quality, weather-resistant posters for missing persons, large banners, car-door magnets, websites and more, Caron said.
"All proceeds are 100 percent used for families of missing people," she said.
The event also will feature raffles for cash and prizes and will include a live broadcast by 107.5 Frank FM. Disc jockey Leif Erickson will give away pair of tickets to see ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd on Sept. 7 at Scarborough Downs.
John Story, managing partner of L-A Harley-Davidson in Lewiston, is donating a gift card for the event raffles. He expects about 50 people will ride to Portland from his dealership.
Ayla's stepgrandfather Jeff Hanson, who plans to attend the event on his Vulcan 1500, said expectations are high. Hanson has helped plan other events, such as a birthday party for Ayla in April.
"I think this will be the biggest so far," he said. "It should be a good day for LostNMissing."
Since December, LostNMissing has helped Ayla's maternal family plan events and spread the word. Caron said each event serves an important purpose.
"Anytime you can put together a community event, it helps bring awareness," she said. "Whenever you put together different types of events, it brings together people who might not have participated previously. It gets more people involved."
For more information, call Kimberly Curless, event and promotions manager for Big Moose Harley-Davidson, at 650-2115.