by Stephen Dafoe
A half dozen bikers dressed in leather, covered in tattoos, and looking a little more than intimidating mixed recently with Zumba instructors, basketball coaches, and girl guide leaders. Though the bikers might look like they don’t belong at an event geared for children and families, the members of the Edmonton Chapter of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) were a welcome addition.
BACA, who have chapters around the world, exists to create a safer environment for abused children by helping them not to feel afraid of the world around them. BACA members have escorted children to court and other appointments and even stood vigil outside the child’s home to assure them they were safe.
The organization began in Utah 21 years ago and has been in Canada for five or six years ago. The Edmonton Chapter began four years ago.
Members go through an extensive background check system including criminal records check and vulnerable sectors checks.
The International organization has a central contact person within each of its chapters who receive calls from individuals and referring agencies. The Chapter works with the family to have members meet the child and give them a vest with a patch sewn on the back as well as other gifts.
The child is provided contact information for two nearby BACA members they can call whenever they feel scared. Members do not go to the child’s house alone or without the knowledge or permission of the parents.
The Edmonton Chapter president goes by the name Boomer. For security reasons, BACA members do not offer their real names.
Boomer said despite the good work the organization does; they do make enemies. He uses the example of the family of a perpetrator who is sent to jail that feels BACA had something to do with the incarceration.
“We will escort a child. When they become a BACA child, and they have to go to court, we will escort them into court,” Boomer explained. “But we are not telling them what to say. We are not influencing them at all. We are just there – almost as security – to make them feel safe.”
The organization’s raison d’être is to empower children, so they are not afraid of the world around them. Sometimes that involves BACA paying for counselling for the child if the family cannot afford it.
He is critical of the government for dropping the ball on helping abused children. “They will give a child three counselling sessions, maybe four and say, ‘Here you go.’ That doesn’t do anything. It takes three or four counselling sessions to establish a relationship with that child, and then the government cuts them off. That’s just how the system works.”
BACA fundraises to help fill the void, turning 100 per cent of proceeds over to the work they do.
“Not a single member right up to the highest-ranking BACA member on the planet – our international president – does not draw a dime out of this organization,” Boomer said. “That money is for our kids. We’ve paid for counselling in the form of sitting in the office. We’ve paid for horseback riding lessons because that’s a form of therapy. We paid for boxing lessons for one of our kids because that was helping to take the aggression out. Therapy is a broad word that means a lot of things.”
Looking out for children has included connecting with other agencies, including Little Warriors and the Be Brave Ranch, offering awareness of the service they offer.
“We’re the ones who will get up at three in the morning if that child calls, get out of bed and go to that child’s house and stand there. It could be the middle of winter. If that’s what that child needs to go back to sleep, that’s what we will do. We say it’s 24/7 and 365 and it is.”
Boomer said those wanting to help the organization can best do so by spreading awareness or donating financially to the cause.
“If you know a child who can benefit from our help, here we are,” Boomer said. “A lot of people don’t realize they know someone being abused right now. They’re [perpetrators] so good at hiding it and so good at grooming these children that most people don’t realize it could be your next door neighbour. It’s sad, but it’s reality now.”
For more information, visit canada.bacaworld.org/edmonton-alberta or email Info@ed-can.bacaworld.org.