After a weekend competing in the Boise area, the Rigby Wranglers Special Olympics team had an eventful return home June 2, with and escort from Bikers Against Bullies and Jefferson County law enforcement.
This year, Wranglers team members participated in athletics (a track-and-field-based competition), basketball and a 10K cycling race, in the case of one member, said Paula Cutler, the program coordinator for the Wranglers. Members might have known which events they were taking part in, but they did not know what had been planned to celebrate their participation afterward, Cutler said.
“I kept this a secret from my team,” she said about the biker escort.
Only when about one hundred Boise chapter members surround the bus did Cutler let on what was happening.
“I explained that (the bikers) were all gathered together for them to talk with them and cheer them on,” Cutler said. “And when (the athletes) realized that they weren’t going to be — that they were safe — their reaction was priceless to me.”
The Boise bikers rode with the bus for a number of miles before the bus stopped and the athletes had the chance to meet, speak with and hug them. From there, the bus ride went normally until Blackfoot, where the Idaho Falls chapter of Bikers Against Bullies met up with the bus. This time, Cutler said, the meeting was more personal. With hugs and tears from those present, Cutler said the moment was “beyond measure.”
“(The athletes) were elated, and they got off the bus, and some of the bikers knew some of the members of the team already, as well as my husband, so it was even better,” she said. “They just kind of reinforced the safety of it.”
Jason White, the Idaho Falls chapter liaison with the national organization, was among the bikers meeting the bus in Blackfoot. It was White who had initially masterminded the idea for Bikers Against Bullies to provide fanfare for the athletes’ return.
“What we’re designed to do is to help empower the children, help give children a voice and let them know that it’s okay to be different, and that it’s not okay to bully or get bullied,” White said about Bikers Against Bullies.
White said since the Idaho Falls chapter is less than two months old, he wanted to start finding ways to give back to the community, and so he reached out to Cutler. He said he wanted reach out to the Rigby Wranglers participants and “let them know, ‘Hey, you got people there for you.’”
“It was amazing, just watching the smile on those kids’s faces was worth every amount of time donated,” he said.
Another surprise came when the bus reached Jefferson County. This time, Cutler said, she was not in on it. Cutler said one of the mothers had contacted her husband, a member of law enforcement, and asked him if he could help add to the procession. And so, at the Jefferson County line, the bus was greeted by members of the Rigby Police Department and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
“They had lights flashing, sirens going,” Cutler said. “And it was the best thing.”
Upon arriving in Rigby, law enforcement and bikers exited or dismounted their vehicles, and many embraced one another, Cutler said.
“That in itself was also such a cool thing to see, because so many times bikers get this stereotype that they’re outlaw gangs,” she said.
In White’s eyes, the experience was a success, and he said he plans on doing it again in the future. He said he is also looking forward to doing similar work in the future. He said people can get in contact with the Idaho Falls Bikers Against Bullies chapter on their Facebook page.
“We’re trying to reach out, if anybody is doing any kind of activities with children, we’d love to work something out to be a part of it,” White said.