More than 200 motorcycles filled the roads June 17. The pack rode through Prince William, Loudoun and Fairfax Counties to raise funds and awareness for Jill’s House, a center that provides overnight accommodations and summer camps to help the families of special needs children.
Jill’s House started out as an effort through McLean Bible Church to help parents of special needs children get a break and have time to themselves or to spend with their other children. When ride organizer Joe Livingood asks parents what they’re going to do while their child is at Jill’s House, he said 95 percent of them say one word: sleep.
“Going to another child’s basketball game, going out to dinner, that stuff just doesn’t happen. But Jill’s House allows that opportunity,” Livingood said.
Jill’s House began in the late 1990’s when McLean Bible Church Pastor Lon Solomon had a daughter with special needs, Jill. As Solomon and his wife raised Jill, respite was essential in keeping their strength and spirit.
After their experience, they decided they wanted to provide that break for others. In 2003, the Jill’s House nonprofit was created, then in 2010, the new 42-room facility in Vienna opened. Jill’s House specializes in caring for children ages six to 17 that require 24 hour care.
“The whole idea behind Jill’s House and this ride is to allow those parents a chance, a break, a respite,” Livingood said. “Imagine having to take care of a child, a special needs child, often nonverbal, can’t feed themselves, can’t change their clothes, can’t go to a bathroom by themselves. It really gets to you and these parents get to a point of almost snapping.”
Almost everyone involved with the ride has a child with special needs or knows a family with a special needs child, Livingood said. The first year he helped organize the ride, they had 17 riders and raised about $2,000. Now in its ninth year, the ride included around 280 riders and raised $136,045.
“It’s the only one of its kind in the county,” ride organizer Joe Livingood said. “It chokes a lot of these hard core bikers up.”
The community has always rallied around Jill’s House, but the increased community and police support through the ride has amazed Livingood. Jill’s House employee Danielle Whitty said the organization has also gained volunteers through the ride. People will call them, saying they saw the Jill’s House banners on the back of bikes and want to get involved, Whitty said.
“They’ve been raising funds for this before Jill’s House was even built, which is awesome,” Jill’s House Coordinator Danielle Whitty said.
The organizing committee worked on raising funds year round. Registration fees also went to the center, and participants could buy raffle tickets for prizes such as gift cards to local businesses, a Flags of Valor flag, Nationals tickets, mini electric cars and a $10,000 Harley Davidson full service prize.
The route started at the McLean Bible Church Prince William campus in Manassas, continued to the Loudoun County line, and went through Middleburg where the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority took over from the Prince William Police Department in escorting the ride. Then the riders continued to Jill’s House.
“We pray that we can help change the lives of these families that go to Jill’s House,” Livingood said.
Video from the 2017 ride below: