(Left to right) Jessy Jolson, Zach Osborne, Travis Baker and Damon Huffman were a few of the stars that put a smile on so many faces during the Big Air Kid’s Fair at the Loma Linda Children’s Hospital. Photography by Kit Palmer.
For the 10th time, the yearly Big Air Kid’s Fair visited the Loma Linda Children’s Hospital, in Loma Linda, California, where some of the top stars of the motorcycle industry took time out from their busy schedules to say hi and chat with the many young patients and their families that could use a little cheering up.
As always, the highlight of the event was the ramp-to-ramp demo put on annually by Jeff Tilton and his crew of freestyle motocrossers. The ramps are positioned right in front of the hospital entrance, where those who could, gathered outside on the sidewalk to watch the show. Those who weren’t as fortunate to venture outside watched the demonstration from their hospital room windows but got an up-close view of the jumpers – Jessy Jolson and Luke Dolin - flying by, sometimes upside down, at eye level. The kids, not to mention the hospital staff, were very impressed by their aerial tricks.
“This is one of the biggest events that happen here all year,” said one hospital staff member. “The kids love it and will talk about it for days, it’s something they really look forward to every year. They really like the motorcycles and it really cheers them up.”
Steve Bauer, a former motocross racer and a stout motorcycle enthusiast, spearheaded the Big Air Kid’s Fair 11 years ago (one year had to be canceled because of a flu outbreak and even this year’s event was postponed a few months because of the flu) and was again instrumental in making this event happen one more time. Bauer and his crew were recently honored by Supercross promoter Feld Motorsports and given the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series Humanitarian of the Year Award. Feld also presented the hospital with a donation of $5000.
“Jeff Tilton and I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all of the loyal sponsors and industry friends who have supported this event for the past decade,” Bauer said. “I would list each of you by name, but it would take awhile and you all know who you are. Thank you so much, you've brought a lot of joy to some folks who needed it.”
Some of those who participated in this year’s Big Air Kid’s Fair included GEICO Honda’s Zach Osborne, Valli Motorsports/Yamaha’s Travis Baker, MyPlash/Metal Mulisha/Star Yamaha’s Kyle Cunningham, Rocket Exhaust PJ Larson, Women’s Amateur champ and off-roader Sarah Price, former Supercross Champion Jeff Emig, X Games medalist and truck racer Ricky James, and Andy Bell of the Nitro Circus fame.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck wanted to be involved, as well. Although he couldn’t be there, many members of the L.A. Police Department were on hand, including one of its latest employees, former factory motocrosser Damon Huffman.
Ed Wilson of the Fire & Police MX group was also on hand to present a donation to the hospital and the Marty Moates Shining Star Fund. Each year, the fund requests a "wish list" from the hospital staff, consisting of items that will bring happiness to the patients and families, but fall outside the hospitals prioritized budget restraints.
“Our goal is to put some smiles on the faces of some unfortunate kids, and that's what we try to do,” Bauer said.
“It’s always cool to come to this,” Zach Osborne said. “I’ve only been here once before, but I’m glad to be back. It’s a cool event but kind of tough. It’s great to see the kids brighten up when we visit them in their rooms. It’s good that we can put a smile on their faces.”
Despite being in the middle of a busy schedule with the Supercross final coming up this weekend in Las Vegas and the start of the outdoor Nationals right around the corner, Baker had no problem taking the time out from testing and training to participate.
“Racing is important, but at the end of the day, you also have to think morally, too,” Osborne said. “I took the day to come out here. It’s just one day of riding and it’s not going to make or break me going into Vegas.”
“This means a lot to me,” Travis Baker said. “It makes me appreciate what I have. These kids are going through a tough time and if I can come here and put a smile on their faces or brighten their day a little bit…maybe our visit can be something life-changing when they see something like this. If I can do that, help out and give back to the community, whatever I can do. I love giving back and like coming here to do this. I’d rather do this than ride my bike or train, because it really pumps me up that I can do this. I’m thankful that Steve puts this on and that we can do this.”
Following the demonstration, the entire crew spent about three hours or so visiting with the children and their families and handing out autographed posters, t-shirts, hats and toys, all donated by many various industry supporters, to the very appreciative kids.