Ride to honor Zahra Baker

Motorcycles aren't the first things that come to mind when someone mentions Zahra Baker's name.

But Gail Boyce, of Conover, is working to change that.

Boyce, with the support of Catawba County businesses and individuals, organized the Angel Wings Zahra Baker Memorial Ride to honor the murdered 10-year-old, who was reported missing in October.

"This is so much more than a memorial ride," Boyce said. "It's a memorial ride, but it's so much more. I can't talk to anyone who this child hasn't touched a part of their heart."

That's also true for Boyce. She previously lived in Dudley Shoals, an area that received publicity in Zahra's case as the place where some of Zahra's remains were located.

As Boyce watched media coverage of the event, she was compelled to do something for Zahra and the children like her. As a biker, Boyce turned to a motorcycle ride in Zahra's honor.

"It took on a life of its own," Boyce said, who has been organizing the
ride since December.

The memorial ride, set for Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will focus on awareness and prevention of two causes that surfaced during Zahra's case — childhood cancer and abuse. Early into the investigation of Zahra's disappearance and death, reports surfaced that the two-time cancer survivor endured cruelty at the hands of her stepmother, Elisa Baker, who is now charged with second-degree murder in Zahra's death.

But the event isn't meant to focus on the events that led to Zahra's death. It's about moving forward and preventing any other child from suffering Zahra's fate.

"We've all got to become voices," Boyce said. "We've all got to become warriors and advocates. That's the only way we can implement change."

The ride will start at the Blue Ridge Harley-Davidson in Hickory and continue through parts of Catawba County connected to Zahra "without touching on the negative," Boyce said.

Riders will stop at Hudson Elementary School, where Zahra attended school, to visit Zahra's Garden, during the event. The garden was created to honor Zahra, who attended school at Hudson Elementary before moving to Hickory last summer.

Proceeds from the memorial ride will benefit nonprofit organization Bikers Against Child Abuse and the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Proceeds will be split between the two charities, as well as Zahra's Garden at Hudson Elementary School.

Cost for the ride is $15 for a single rider and $20 for double riders.

Classic and custom cars are also eligible to participate in the ride.

The cost for those vehicles is $15, no matter how many riders are in the vehicle, Boyce said.

Since the event started gaining publicity, Boyce received hundreds of emails and telephone calls requesting information about the memorial ride.

The event has a Facebook event page, where riders and supporters alike left messages of encouragement and approval.

"I will be thinking of you all as you take to the roads on this wonderful charity ride," one Facebook supporter wrote. "(Zahra) deserves so much more than what she got. Bless her (little) heart."