I got to meet one of my heroes last week.
I was at the LACBC Board of Directors meeting Wednesday night when someone stepped up behind me and said he wanted to introduce himself.
I turned to see a tall man with a huge smile and a face I knew from countless news stories. A quick, almost involuntary glance down revealed an artificial leg he made no attempt to hide, and suddenly no introduction was necessary.
For reasons I will never understand, Damien Kevitt wanted to shake my hand.
I think he had that backwards.
I’ve been wanting to shake his ever since he fought his way back from one of the most horrific hit-and-run collisions I’ve ever heard of. Just surviving what he went through took more courage than most of us will ever need in our lifetimes.
And that was long before his amazing Finish the Ride campaign made him the public face of the fight against motorists who run away like the cowards they are, rather than stopping to take responsibility for their actions.
Under similar circumstances, most people would be happy just to survive. Let alone display the determination to get back on his bike as quickly as possible, despite the loss of a leg.
And even more to start a movement dedicated to justice, if not for himself, then for others victims of hit-and-run.
It was a little later, after he had made a presentation to the board, that I gave a hug to another hero of mine.
Kevitt was accompanied by a woman who turned out to be one of the most awe-inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
His mother, Michele Kevitt Kirkland.
Her name popped up from the very beginning in news stories about his collision. And virtually every story after that as she spoke for — and fought for — her son until he was able to do it for himself.
I have no doubt that it was her will and determination, as much as the skill of his medical team, that helped bring Kevitt through the first few days when his survival was in doubt.
Let alone every seemingly impossible step that followed.
Kevitt was at the board meeting because he had named the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition as one of the beneficiaries of the event, along with the Challenged Athletes Foundation — in the unlikely event there were any profits to benefit from — and the coalition provided the organizational support necessary to pull it off.
At the last minute, though, sponsors started pouring in, from local bike shops to a major car dealership, as well as BikinginLA sponsor Pocrass & De Los Reyes. And news started spreading, not just here in LA, but across the US and around the world.
In the end, the turnout far surpassed anyone’s expectations. And the ride not only broke even, it resulted in one of the largest private donations the LACBC has ever received.
- Over 700 participants
- Five elected officials both speaking and riding, including a US Congressman
- Over 16 media outlets represented
- 26 festival booths
- 22 entertainers performing for the crowd
- $25,000 raised for the LACBC and the CAF
But the biggest success may have come as a surprise to everyone.
According to LAPD Police Commissioner Steve Soboroff, after rising steadily for years, the rate of hit-and-runs in Los Angeles has declined 9% since the first of the year.
A drop he attributed in large part to the publicity Finish the Ride received, and the message of responsibility behind it.
Which goes to show that the battle to stop drivers from fleeing may actually be winnable after all.
After a victory like that, anyone else would sit back and relax. Or maybe start thinking about next year’s ride.
Clearly, Damian Kevitt is not like anyone else I’ve ever met.
He not only credits everyone else with the success of Finish the Ride, he’s taking the fight to the next level.
Tomorrow night he’s hosting the first Hit and Run Summit — Gathering of the Minds at a church in Hollywood. And inviting you, and everyone else committed to doing something about this deadly, life-shattering epidemic, to attend.
Join us Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 7:00pm for the first “Hit and Run Summit – Gathering of the minds.”
Gather your voices and be part of something that will help change the streets of Los Angels in a positive light for young and old alike.
Join in on a united mission to make Los Angeles County a healthy, safer, and fun place to walk, run, and ride bicycles.
Come and network with a diverse community of people that believes in advocacy, education, and community building over dinner.
Please share this with anyone that could possibly benefit from this event. We will be providing useful contact information for various groups, and organizations for volunteer and/or assistance purposes.
Schools, mothers, clubs, and non-profit organizations are highly encouraged to attend and participate.Address: Hollywood Lutheran Church, Rear Gallery 1733 North New Hampshire, Hollywood, CA 90027 Time: 7:00PM Summit Opens, 7:20 Summit Starts, 7:50PM Dinner Served
*Keynote speakers will include experts in the following areas.
- CREATING SOLUTIONS TO MAKE LA STREETS SAFER FOR EVERYONE
- CAMPAIGNING ON HANDLING HIT AND RUN
- CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LAW AND HIT AND RUN
- CURRENT AND FUTURE LEGISLATIONS REGARDING HIT AND RUN
- STATISTICS AND FACTS OF HIT AND RUN
“Safer roads in LA County for everyone!”
I’m not making many commitments these days as I work to get my own health back under control. But I plan to attend even if I have to drag myself there.
And I hope you’ll be there, as well.