Smashing the $8,000 Goal
The Sturgis Meals on Wheels was able to more than double its goal of $8,000 thanks to the generosity of riders who showed up to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. In addition to many donations from riders, Dixxon Flannel chipped in $5,000 and Buffalo Chip Campground pledged to match up to $4,000. This has made the latest fundraising effort for the organization a major success.
“Last year [Sturgis Meals on Wheels] raised about $1,300, so we crushed it,” GiveAShift founder Robert Pandya said. He told me that this year’s successful fundraising happened in about nine days total. That means they received over $17,000 in less than two weeks.
When it was announced that the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was raising money for Meals on Wheels, I posted an article. In that article, I noted that there was some irony in the large number of riders donating to the cause when the massive gathering was only exacerbating the issue of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Pandya took issue with that description. He said that the decision to hold the rally came months ago and that the town of Sturgis knew this was coming and made efforts to prepare, including adding free testing areas. It was determined that the rally was inevitable, so the city council felt the need to prepare.
“You really have to look at it on a timeline,” Pandya said. “The decision to host Sturgis was made months ago by the city council, and as a city council, they have to plan for it. Budget for waste management, police, EMTs, and other stuff that happens with an event.”
He also said that there’s a long list of organizations that depend on Sturgis for donations so they can do the kinds of good things they do every year. These include the Rapid City Special Olympics, the Colin Derr Foundation, the Shriners Transportation Fund, Helping with Horsepower, Motorcycle Missions, and many more.
“The amount of charity that happens is unbelievable,” Pandya said. “These foundations are funded by motorcyclists.”
Pandya is not some COVID-19 denier. He had it and dealt with it. He knows people are getting sick and dying of COVID-19. However, he said that the situation as portrayed in mainstream media about the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally misses the mark.
Pandya said the number of 250,000 people attending the rally that was shared with the press was accurate, but that not all those people were there at once. He said the city didn’t make it totally clear to the press. Those 250,000 people showed up over the course of 10 days or so and not all of them stayed in the area the entire time. “You can’t fit 250,000 people on the main street in Sturgis,” he said.
Also, not all go to the bars and concerts that happen there. Many show up to ride the beautiful Black Hills and stay at campsites or venues outside of town. The rally is spread out over the Black Hills. The towns where bikers go include Deadwood, Belle Fouche, Spearfish, Lead, Rapid City, not to mention many of the parks and recreational areas in the state. There are over 1.2 million acres of land that make up the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, which is just south of Sturgis.
He also noted that the situation with COVID-19 helped contribute to the charitable giving this year. “More hands went up because of COVID and because of the rally,” said Pandya.
He said that is the real story of Sturgis—the generosity of riders. That’s something nobody can deny. The riders at Sturgis do provide a lot of money to various foundations and organizations. While this year’s rally has been mired in controversy, the large amount of charitable giving is a very good thing to come out of this gathering.