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“Don’t hope for a miracle, be one!” – A True All-Star for Duke Children’s

Every summer since 2000, a parade of motorcycles roars into Duke Children’s for the All-Star Ride for Life, an annual fundraiser for the patients and caregivers at the hospital. This past year, the All-Star Ride for Life raised $27,000 for Duke Children’s; the event has raised nearly $300,000 since its inception. The 2017 ride had 140 bikes with 169 riders, all of whom made the journey from Raleigh to Duke Children’s and back.

Stan greets participants at the 2017 ride

The ride was founded and is organized by Stan Simmerson, who has a unique and personal connection to Duke Children’s. Stan has been a nurse at Duke Hospital since 1997; he currently works in the adult pre-anesthesia testing ward. Stan is originally from Salisbury, NC. He moved to Raleigh to attend NC State in 1980, after several years of serving in the U.S. Air Force. He and his wife, Patti, have been married for five years. Stan is a also former motorcycle roadracer; he won the Amateur National Championship at Daytona Speedway in 1994, and is currently a motorcycle racing instructor at the Virginia International Raceway in Danville. Stan has been riding motorcycles since he was ten, and he tries to ride his beloved Harley-Davidson as much as possible.

Stan’s story of how he was inspired to found the All-Star Ride for Life is incredible. In 2000, he was on his lunch break at Duke Hospital, and went to the Hardee’s in the food court to grab a bite to eat. He got in line, but the line wasn’t moving. The people in line were beginning to grow impatient and finally, after standing in line for nearly ten minutes, Stan had had enough. He strode to the front of the line and went to the counter, and there he found a sobering scene.

Stan thanks a sponsor at the 2017 ride

The girl at the counter was paralyzed as she watched a customer, a young man in his mid-20s, count change on the counter over and over, struggling to see if he had 49 cents to buy a plain hamburger. But he kept coming up short. That was the delay.

“I felt as low as a human being could possibly feel,” Stan says. “I looked at the counter girl and said, ‘Give this man whatever he wants, and I’m paying.’  The young man quickly said, ‘No, please, I don’t want your charity.’  I then asked him, ‘Well, if I was standing here and was hungry, and you worked here, would you buy me lunch?’ He sheepishly admitted that yes, he would.  So I told him, ‘Then it’s not charity, it’s just being a good person.’  So he ordered his meal and I got mine, and we sat down together to eat.”

Stan learned that the young man was in Durham with his four-year-old son, who was undergoing treatment at Duke’s Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant clinic. His wife was at home in Kentucky with their two-year-old child. The young father’s situation was desperate: he had lost his job because of all the time he’d missed from work to take care of his son. He was sleeping in his car in the Duke Hospital parking deck. “By now I’m sure you can see how completely horrible I felt,” Stan adds. “Here I was thinking I was some big-shot nurse with so many problems, when I came face to face with what real problems look like.” 

Stan at the 2014 ride with Miracle Kid Kennedy

Stan immediately called a social worker at Duke, and they were able to give the young father vouchers for a hotel room and for meals. Stan also ensured that the social worker would keep tabs on the man, to give him help and support during his son’s treatment. “As I walked away from that experience, I realized that I had to do something more than just come to work and  do my job. There had to be something, anything, that I could do to make things just a bit better in the world. So I combined my love of motorcycles with my new-found motivation to help.”

And so, the All-Star Ride for Life was born. “As long as I’m alive, the ride will continue,” Stan says. “I don’t have any children of my own, just two grown step-children through my wife, and now a grandson who is four. Perhaps this is God’s way of allowing me to help some kids and parents at a time when they maybe feel they’re all alone in their situation. The looks on kids’ and parents’ faces when they see this hoard of bikers come roaring in to Duke Children’s is something you have to see in person to believe. They can’t believe that all these bikers that they don’t even know came to see and support them at the hospital. If I can raise a little money, or bring a smile to a child or their parents as they see a swarm of motorcycles descend on the hospital, then I will have considered mine a life well-lived.” 

Every rider who attends the All-Star Ride for Life receives a shirt with the slogan “Don’t hope for a miracle, be one!” Stan Simmerson saw a need and became the miracle that that father, and so many parents and children, required. Stan is a true beacon and example for anyone looking to bring a ray of hope to the world. Duke Children’s is lucky to have him. Thank you, Stan!

The 2017 All-Star Ride for Life Participants

Learn more about the All-Star Ride for Life.