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Ride to change lives: Harley Davidson parades to support World Food Program

Charity work along with bikers in leather jackets were the order of the day at the Arkan Mall in Sheikh Zayed in 6th of October City on Friday. The celebration of Harley Davidson’s 110th anniversary combined enthusiasm for the iconic motorbikes with the bikers’ desires to give back.

The main attraction was a parade of almost 100 bikers, who started their journey on the Cairo-Alexandria Desert Road and drove for 50 kilometers to meet bikers from Alexandria, before heading back to finish their parade with a loud entrance right in front of the mall.

But besides showcasing the 2013 Harley Davidson bikes, the event also had a charitable side to it. Sales of 110-year-anniversary pins raised funds for the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency. The program feeds more than 90 million people in over 70 countries on average each year. The funds raised will be used to feed more than 30 underprivileged children a day.

One of the main objectives of the celebration was to raise awareness of the WFP’s schools meals program. According to Shereen Nasef, a monitoring and evaluation officer for the WFP, the partnership with the private sector in events like these is “vital to send a clear message to the community that it’s not only organizations like the UN that are concerned about such problems, but also private sector companies who share an interest in raising funds and awareness about the social problems the community is facing.”

According to Nasef, fun-filled parades like these can sometimes be even more effective in raising awareness and funds about social programs than conferences or seminars.

“We were there at the Egypt Orphan Day last year, and we will always be interested in showing our support in such events,” explained Indji Ghattas, Harley Davidson Egypt’s principal dealer. “We are part of the community, so we have to give back.”

The day started with a perusal of the tents and the reception area for the bikers and continued with the biking parade. A rock and roll performance carried event attendees into the evening. The charity pins marking the anniversary were displayed for sale.

Harley Owners Group played a major part in organizing the parade. The “brotherhood of bikers” started with 10 bikes back in 2000 and will have 600 bikes by the end of this year. Karim Omar, HOG’s treasurer, thought the parade was a “sight to be seen,” with a safety team to ensure all the right precautions for the bikers along the parade route.

“It’s an honor to be part of this brotherhood,” he said, “and HOG is always eager to join forces to give back to the community they belong to.”

“It’s fun to link charity work to bikers to break the old fashioned image of some Harley bikers,” added Omar Foda, a dedicated member of the HOG.

“We are doctors, engineers, analysts, [and] businessmen. We spend our days in suits and our weekends in leather jackets.”

“It’s fun to have an event where the bikers get to have an excellent ride and their families can share their fun and passion for the bikes and their lifestyle,” Foda said. He believes the parade gave attendees a sense of pride both for HOG, and for the country as a whole.

This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition.

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