Accidents that forever change our lives can happen in the blink of an eye—an unfortunate fact of life that Calgary motorcyclist Glenn Lyth knows all too well.
In June 2012, Lyth was riding his motorcycle on Deerfoot Trail when rush-hour traffic caused him to collide with another vehicle. His daughter, who was with him on her bike, saw the whole thing. Later that evening, Ashlee Atkin watched her dad flatline in the hospital.
By way of some miracle, he pulled through, spending the next three months in a full body brace. The emotional turmoil, not to mention the financial strain, took its toll on Lyth and his family. So Atkin and her close friend, Elizabeth Cloutier, took action, rallying the motorcycle community to raise funds through a poker run.
And so began One Broken Biker (OBB), a nonprofit organization that is growing rapidly to provide financial and emotional aid for injured riders in Alberta and beyond.
“When we found out there are just so many injured riders out there, we decided to keep doing fundraisers every year,” said Atkin.
The organization raises money through poker runs, weekly bike nights and a silent auction. OBB also sells apparel and memberships that include discounts from local bike shops and businesses.
More of a community than a club, OBB brings together a diverse group of riders for a gracious cause.
“I feel like OBB has filled the gaps between them all,” said Atkin. “We have the crotch-rocket riders, we have the café racers and we’ve got the hardcore Harley guys. Everybody is part of our group and they’re starting to learn what we’re here for and that’s why we’re getting so many people contacting us.”
OBB’s September poker run attracts upwards of 200 riders. — Yukonart Photography
Financial aid for injured riders takes the form of care packages, which include accommodations, food vouchers and prepaid credit cards. Sometimes, though, money is not needed and that’s when OBB’s compassionate services come in.
“We’ve had a few people who didn’t need money so we just visited with them,” said Atkin. “Afterwards, they expressed to us that just coming there and understanding what they are going through helped them more than money could have.”
Some members of the OBB board have professional experience in dealing with mental health issues. Atkin, who is president, said it helps OBB better assist riders and their families with things like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lyth, whose broken back, neck and ribs have healed, is an executive member of the OBB board. Given his background in insurance, his role includes helping riders and their families deal with insurance claims.
Despite permanent left arm paralysis, Lyth’s unbroken spirit has him back on two wheels.
As for Atkin, she has found solace and a new drive in life. OBB is now her primary hobby outside of secular work, and she has high hopes for the organization that’s raised thousands of dollars and helped more than 50 riders.
“Everybody laughs at me when I say this, it’s my 10-year vision, but I want the OBB symbol to be as popular as the Harley-Davidson symbol,” she said. “I want everyone who rides a motorcycle or knows someone who rides to know what our symbol represents and what we are doing for the people.”
If the last five years are indicative of the future, Atkin’s vision for OBB may well become reality.
Pictured here is OBB founder and president Ashlee Atkin with her father, Glenn Lyth. — Lexi Lyth photo