A pessimist would look at the third annual Kaleb McLaughlin Memorial Ride and Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation Awareness Day on July 9 and mutter, “Big deal…same ol’ thing.” It is for that reason that the annual event in downtown Pioneer is a pessimist-free zone. Sure, there are some things that are carried over from year to year, but even those things are different. According to Kaleb’s father, Kevin Oxender, there was less than 20 riders pre-registered for the 2015 ride. The day of the event, riders began showing up from far and wide, bringing the total to 172. This year is looking like a repeat of 2015, but Kevin is preparing for 200 riders. This event is not remaining static…it is growing.
When a traffic accident claimed the life of Kaleb on June 24, 2013, the lives of his parents, Kevin and Kim Oxender, were understandably turned upside down and darkened. In the midst of that darkness though, a beam of redeeming light broke through with the news that Kaleb had signed a donor card. His passing meant the chance for life for others, and a life more abundant for even more. As the dim early glow of the dawning of a new day breaks forth in golden sunlight with the rising of the sun above the horizon, so did God change the perspective of Kevin and Kim with the understanding of what their son had done for others. They have picked up the torch of what Kim refers to as ‘Kaleb’s Cause’, and been indefatigable in running with it ever since. “When you stop talking about them, you stop remembering them. When you stop remembering them…then they’re gone. With my last breath, I will continue to talk about him,” Kevin said of his son. Kim doesn’t just back up those sentiments…she doubles down on them.
So, what is it that makes this annual ‘K-Bob Klassic’ event so special? Sponsored again by Northwest Ohio Station 84 of the Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club, the motorcycle ride is a huge part of the event. Nothing new there, thinks the pessimist…but the pessimist, as he or she usually does, thinks so very wrongly. In attracting the biggest share of people to the event, the ride forever broke the argument of the pessimist during the 2015 event, and in a way that would have the namesake of the event beaming with approval.
As Kim explained, “At last year’s ride we had a local gentlemen, Tom Traxler, that needed a kidney. He had posters made up to make everyone aware, and during the blessing of the bikes, the pastor lifted him in prayer. Tomi Zuver, a local lady that came later that day, discovered that he needed a kidney. She went and got tested, and found that she was a perfect match. On November 3rd he received his new kidney. He is going to be there to tell his story this year before the bikes leave. Their story will be in Health and Wellness magazine in July, and they are also featuring Kaleb.” It is for this purpose that Kevin and Kim are carrying on ‘Kaleb’s Cause’…life itself.
It just doesn’t get any better than that. At any event, you can expect to find people coming away with raffle prizes and the like. How many events can name in which one of their attendees came away with a donor that would give them a chance to live a normal life, and a normal lifetime? Think about that for a while.
Other events of the day will include 50-50 drawings, a Cruise-In sponsored by the American Legion, and a silent auction inside the Community Center. Before the naysayer even begins to cast a cloud over cynicism, that silent auction is going to be something that, even if you cannot place a bid, you will need to see for yourself.
Why? Because the Kaleb effect has now been felt in Las Vegas.
When you get to the event, take a look at the incredible artwork on the trailer of Kevin and Kim’s Harley Davidson. Study the lifelike, hand-painted mural of Kaleb.
Ponder the 24 karat gold leaf in the artwork…then look at the insignia in the lower right corner. Where have you seen that insignia before? “I wrote a letter to the TV show Counting Cars,” Kim said. “I wrote them a letter telling the story of Kaleb. In the letter I asked them if they would be interested in putting the mural of Kaleb on the trailer of our motorcycle for us. I figured that they would never call me back…but they called back. They said that they would be honored to do it. Ron Rummel painted the bike Harley Green, and they matched it.”
Kevin continued, “Ryan Evans is the guy who painted the trailer. I spoke with him on the phone several times and he just put his creative thing to work. What a tremendous job they did on the trailer. They are a class act all the way, and this is opening many doors for us.”
About that hand-painted mural of Kaleb, Kevin said, “We sent four pictures of Kaleb out there, pictures of Kaleb on the motorcycle…and he’s not smiling. He’s a tough guy. They wanted to catch him smiling though, so we sent a goofy picture of him standing beside a door. Ryan put it all together from there. It’s just amazing what he does with an airbrush. Danny (Koker, the owner of Count’s Kustoms)…he’s got a heart. They sent an autographed picture, but before it was taken they called to say they had to wait on Horny Mike because he’s always late. They are top-notch, wonderful people. When you are small town, nobody writes you back. They took the time to read our story, and they called us…they called us back. That in itself tells me that they are the real deal. They took the time to get to know Kaleb and his story. They took the time to research it and were very impressed.”
Danny Koker and his crew didn’t stop with the trailer, though. Kim said, “We are still discovering how many lives Kaleb has touched,” and you can add the staff of Count’s Kustoms to that list. At the aforementioned silent auction, you will be able to find items up for bid that have come to Pioneer, Ohio directly from Danny ‘The Count’ Koker and the cast of Counting Cars…just for this occasion.
The listing of events doesn’t stop at the aforementioned. The North Central FFA will be arriving early to prepare and serve breakfast from 7:00 to 10:00 at the Community Center, followed by a pork roast lunch from 11:00 until 5:00. With a DJ spinning tunes, the Kaleb Donor Dash 5-K color run begins at 8:00, and the Red Cross will host a blood drive from 9:00 until 3:00. The Archery Spot will be hosting gun raffles, and along with the 50-50, there will be other drawings taking place all day long. Registrations for the Memorial Ride begin at 11:00, with the Blessing of the Bikes ceremony taking place at 12:45, and the kickstands going up at 1:00. All throughout the day will be the reverberating theme of ‘Kaleb’s Cause’…information and awareness pertaining to organ and tissue donations, including the day-long appearance of the enduring symbol of donation…the big ‘Green Chair’.
The pessimist (who by now is almost out of ideas) would probably grumble that this is an adults-only event. Again, the pessimist is wrong on yet another level. There will be a huge kids and family fun area featuring inflatables and face painting. Williams County DARE Officer, Deputy Paul McCord, will be on hand to oversee the creation of fingerprinting and photo IDs to insure that the kids will lead safe lives in these increasingly dangerous times. Depending upon availability, the Sheriff’s Office will also have a K-9 officer at the event to meet the kids.
While all this fun is going on, it might slip the minds of the event attendees that this is also a fundraiser, with proceeds going to, amongst others, the Pioneer Fire Department First Responders, the Kaleb McLaughlin Memorial FFA Scholarship, the Donate Life Education Vehicle, and the Community Tissue Services.
With all these activities jammed into the hours of 7:00 to 5:00 on July 9, there will be no time for anything other than fun with a purpose. You still have ample time to get your name in for registrations. Pick up your phone and call Kevin and Kim at 419-737-9675, or contact Fire and Iron Station 84 members Don Bertke at 419-490-6607, or Ken West at 567-239-8412.
Timothy Kays can be reached at