History of Ride For Sight
In 1979, Jim Bentley and the York Wing Motorcycle Club started a charity motorcycle ride called “Ride for Sight” to benefit The RP Research Foundation (now the Foundation Fighting Blindness). Jim was inspired by his friend Jack who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
One evening, Jim and Jack with a group of friends were riding home together when Jack had greater difficulty seeing as the sun went down. During that long dark night, the group rode home with Jack keeping him closely within their pack, hi-beams on the road ahead to safely guide him. They later learned impaired night vision is a symptom of retinitis pigmentosa. Jack parked his bike and never rode again.
It is only fitting that Ride for Sight became an integral part of fundraising for vision research through The Foundation Fighting Blindness. The Foundation was also started (in 1975) by another tight knit group – this one of families whose children were affected by RP. Together their mandate was to fund research to discover the causes, treatments and ultimately the cures for the eye disease. In 1979, the Foundation gratefully accepted the $8,000 raised by Jim and his friends for eye research and a proud tradition was born.
From its humble beginnings Ride for Sight has grown from a small local fundraising event to a national initiative which raises more than $1,000,000 annually -- making Ride for Sight not only the largest charity motorcycle event in Canada, but the single largest fundraiser for vision research in the world.
Ride for Sight now ranks as one of the largest charity motorcycle events in the world. Even more incredible is the growth of community support from riders and their friends who not only fundraise for Ride for Sight, but form regional Ride for Sight Planning Teams that organize the annual celebration to honour fundraisers.
In 1983, Ride for Sight expanded to other provinces, and by 1987 it had become a national event. Today there are sanctioned Ride for Sight events in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Maritimes, Newfoundland, Northwestern Ontario and Central Ontario (which rolls out the largest motorcycle parade in Canada spanning 15 km).
The dream of all motorcyclists coming together for the cause was furthered in 1999 when the Ontario Dual Sport Club joined Central Ontario Ride for Sight with the first annual Dual Sports Ride for Sight.
Over the years, the Foundation has also evolved. In 2001, the RP Foundation changed its name to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, to better reflect its commitment to funding research to find cures for all genetic forms of degenerative eye disease, including age-related macular degeneration.
Jim Bentley, Ride for Sight founder, remains very active with the Foundation Fighting Blindness and Ride for Sight. Jim is modest about his enormous contributions to Ride for Sight and credits his friends who have worked so hard through the years to ensure the Ride’s success. He volunteers every year and vows to continue the fight against blindness, holding dear the fundraiser’s slogan: “Ride for Sight … because you can”. The Foundation Fighting Blindness is very grateful for Jim, his friends, motorcyclists and supporters across Canada who are responsible for three decades of eye research discoveries through the Foundation Fighting Blindness that bring us that much closer to cures for blindness.
About Ride for Sight
Ride for Sight is the longest running motorcycle charity fundraiser in Canada; the first ride began in 1979 in Central Ontario. Each regional Ride has its own unique features. Annual Ride for Sight weekend celebration events are supported in part by generous corporate sponsorship and are organized by volunteer Ride for Sight Planning Teams. While Ride for Sight participants are primarily comprised of motorcyclists -- volunteers, fundraisers and supporters also include non-motorcyclists and families affected by retinal diseases. Ride for Sight is the single largest private fundraising initiative for vision research in the world. To-date, Ride for Sight has raised more than $18 million in support of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the only organization in Canada whose mandate is to fund research for blindness caused by retinal degenerations.
How Ride for Sight Works Ride for Sight participants collect donations (some, all year round) from friends, colleagues and family; those who raise a minimum donation of ($50 to $75 depending on region), are eligible to participate at a Ride for Sight Celebration event. The Celebrations feature a variety of activities including: bike games, live entertainment, show n’ shines, a vendor marketplace and more. Participants also have the option of riding in a motorcycle parade from a select location to the celebration site; takes place on the Saturday of the weekend celebration; Central Ontario Ride for Sight is the largest motorcycle parade in the country. “Not many people know that Ride for Sight motorcyclists and their family and friends have been the largest community funding Canadian vision research for more than 30 years,” said
President and CEO, Foundation Fighting Blindness. “Their commitment to fund research into the causes, the needed treatments and ultimately the cures for blindness is inspiring.”