BACA’s OC President Leads Bikers to Combat Child Abuse
Written By: Nicole Hakim
Photographed By: Bradley Blackburn Bikers Against Child Abuse
It would be a dream come true if we could live in a world that is free of worries; a world where we all feel important and loved. Unfortunately, such a world does not exist, particularly for some children. These children are those that have been physically or mentally abused or abandoned. Thankfully, there are organizations that exist to combat child abuse to make children feel important and empowered. One such organization is Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), which is made up of volunteer bikers whose sole mission is to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. By empowering children, BACA seeks to break the chains of abuse.
BACA was founded 22 years ago by JP Lilly, known in the biker community as “Chief.” He was a child play therapist when he started BACA as an idea to help an eight-year-old who was so frightened of his perpetrators that he would not leave his home. Chief grew up with bikers and used his existing relationship with the biker community to create an organization that sought to empower, at that time, the first BACA child. Within weeks, that child was able to play outside his home, ride his bike, and play with friends. What started as an idea was realized across the country by the dedicated and heartfelt love of bikers with a common mission. The BACA organization has numerous chapters across the country, and international chapters in many countries; including Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, and more.
One of the founders of the Orange County chapter and current chapter president, “Fester” knows the need to help abused children by empowering them is real. “If I can help even one child, I am on my way to making a difference,” he says. “And what I love best about my chapter is that every member and supporter wants to make a difference.”
BACA works with federal and state officials to help abused children. According to Fester, members must undergo a thorough background check before they can ride out to meet the abused child. A family with an abused child may contact BACA directly, or BACA may get a child abuse case referral from local child abuse protection and prevention agencies. Once the case is received, bikers ride out to meet the child. At this point, the child is given a road name, a vest with a BACA patch on the back, and brought into the BACA family. And lastly, each child is provided with two primary BACA contacts closest to their area to call in case he or she needs a protector.
BACA is around as long as the child needs someone to make him or her feel safe. “Sometimes BACA members even attend court and parole hearings where an abused child will refuse to cooperate because the person who hurt him or her has 30 people sitting there,” Fester says. “That’s when we roll in with [a big crew] to make the child feel empowered to testify in front of his or her abuser.”
In Orange County alone, there were approximately 48,000 reported cases of child abuse in 2016. While there is no way to know how many cases of child abuse go unreported, national studies indicate that the actual statistic is significantly larger than what is reported. Working in BACA means seeing and interacting with frightened and small children, and though that can be difficult, BACA members and supporters are determined to ease children’s burdens, no matter what it takes. “Things often get emotional and the saying ‘bikers don’t cry’ is absolutely false because I definitely have had those overwhelming times,” Fester says.
Ultimately, it’s the heartwarming moments that these visits create that keep Fester involved. “When you go and meet a scared child who is hiding behind the mom’s leg, and then within 10 minutes, they’re running around, jumping on the bikes, and high-fiving each other—it’s proof that BACA works,” Fester says.
March for What’s Right: April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which makes for BACA’s busiest month packed with meetings and presentations to bring awareness to a necessary topic.
Bikers Against Child Abuse Chapters are Almost Everywhere
Bikers Against Child Abuse
Bikers’ Aims to Empower Children