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In memory of Mike Traynor, co-founder of the Ride for Kids

Published September 14th, 2009

They say a man is never taller than when he stoops to help a child. Mike Traynor was a giant among men.

Courtesy American Honda

Mike Traynor, president and co-founder of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and co-founder of the Ride for Kids® motorcycle charity program, died September 12, 2009, in Asheville, N.C., after a brief illness. He was 70.

Mike and his wife, Dianne, began the Ride for Kids (RFK) program in 1984 to raise funds for childhood brain tumor research. Their dream was to bring the motorcycle community together to fight childhood brain tumors. The overwhelming success of the RFK led them to start the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF) in 1991. It is now the world’s largest philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting the search for the cause of and cure for childhood brain tumors. A long-time motorcycle enthusiast, Mike was always proud that motorcyclists have helped to raise more than $50 million for research and family support programs since the program began.

American Honda has long been a supporter of the Ride for Kids program, and like the millions of lives Mike touched and the thousands of children he helped, we mourn his passing.

“Mike’s strength and conviction were legendary,” said Ray Blank, senior vice president of the Motorcycle Division. “He had his course and could not be swayed from it. I never met a man so committed in my life. Gracious to a fault, Mike would accord much of the program’s success to Honda even if there were no Honda people to hear him. He had that much gratitude for the little we did to help. When Mike first came to us, I could never have envisioned he and Dianne would accomplish a tenth of what they did.

“Mike rode like he worked; hard and fast. We were always amazed that he could put in a 16-hour day at a Ride for Kids event, then spool it up in the mountains with us on the way home.

“I always had a hard time accepting the microphone from Mike at an RFK event. I’d get two minutes into it, look at those kids’ faces and get so choked up I couldn’t go on. I saw the tragedy. He always saw the hope. Amazing.”

In 1985, Mike helped create the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, which has accrued the nation’s largest epidemiological database on brain tumors. Seed money from the PBTF also established the Journal of Neuro-Oncology, the Society of Neuro-Oncology’s premier international publication.

At the time of his death, Mike served on the board of directors for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States. He was the recipient of numerous awards of recognition from the Society of Neuro-Oncology, the International Society of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, the International Brain Tumor Therapy and Research Meeting and the motorcycling community as well.

Motorcycling was Mike’s enduring passion. He began riding as a teenager growing up outside Chicago, Illinois. His love for motorcycling continued during his stint in the Army while stationed in Japan. In those days, the G.I.s he rode with built their own short track with army bulldozers using volcanic lava as a track surface. His fellow American and Japanese competitors raced on the earliest of production bikes available, while Mike raced his daily commuter, a slightly modified Honda Dream. He eventually became a known local racer, winning a championship in 1961.

Mike continued to ride bikes and race sports cars throughout his post-Army life, eventually returning to racing as an endurance and sprint road racer. He wrapped up his racing career in the early 1980s, finishing 11th nationally in an endurance road race series teamed with his oldest son, Danny, as his co-rider and his two other sons as his pit crew.

Mike’s work with the Ride for Kids over more than two decades had a huge impact on how the public viewed motorcyclists. Every rider who has shared a wave with someone strolling down the street or a kid peering out the back window of a car owes Mike Traynor a debt of gratitude.

“For many years the army of volunteer task force members and the motorcycling public have dedicated themselves to beating this devastating disease” said Brian Traynor, Executive Director of the PBTF. “The best way we can honor Mike’s accomplishments and memory is by continuing the fight to cure the kids.”

Mike Traynor is survived by his wife Dianne and three sons, Dan Traynor and his wife, Cathy, of Cumming, Ga.; Brian Traynor and his wife, Wendy, of Bluff City, Tenn., and Sean Traynor and his wife, Toni, of Cumming, Ga.; nine grandchildren; and four brothers, Tim Traynor, Tom Traynor, Terry Traynor and Billy Traynor.

For more information on Mike Traynor and the Ride for Kids program, go to www.rideforkids.org

The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the PBTF in Mike’s memory. Go to https://secure3.convio.net/pbtf/site/Donation2?df_id=1300&1300.donation=form1

Condolences should be sent to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, 302 Ridgefield Ct., Asheville, NC 28806

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Mike Traynor


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