Friday Feature: MX for Children

Photos courtesy MX for Children

From factory rigs, pro bikes and all-star riders, to works suspension and the always-popular 30-second board girls, there is definitely a lot that makes motocross such a cool sport. But one of the most impressive things in our industry is the way we can pull together and support so many great causes. Everyone from the common fan, to pros like Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed are willing to get involved and support those in need.

One of the greatest examples of this generous spirit is MX for Children. Paul Gross founded MX for Children to raise money for Children’s Hospitals after his own son was born prematurely. Paul’s organization started to get more attention earlier this year when they held a fund-raising event in-conjunction with the Seattle Supercross, and they will once again be working with Live Nation to hold fund-raising events at the Toronto and Seattle rounds of the 2007 AMA Supercross season.

Earlier this week we talked with MX for Children founder, Paul Gross, to learn more about their inspiring work, and how moto fans can get involved…

Hi Paul, thanks for taking some time to talk with us. Why don’t you start with a quick history lesson about MX for Children.

MX for Children a site that I run, and a way that I gather volunteers from different places to help me run charitable events that connect the motocross industry with Children’s Hospitals. It’s born out of the fact that I had a kid that was born ten weeks prematurely back in the beginning of 2005. He almost died on day two of life and then about nine months later again. His life was saved twice by the Children’s Hospital in Seattle.

During his initial stay there I started thinking about how much I appreciated the hospital and how I could give back. A friend of mine suggested trying to connect charities I love with things that I’m passionate about. I became passionate about motocross as a forty-year-old going through a mid-life crisis, and so I started working on different angles and ended up coming up with the idea of trying to get the top riders to be willing to meet people that raise money for the hospital as a fund-raising idea, and then have the riders tour the hospital as good-will. I did it for the first time last season in Seattle, and we also did a couple other things; Suzuki gave me a bike that I used for a raffle, and we did a silent auction. We raised $52,000 for the hospital.

That’s impressive.

Yeah, it was a good, successful event. I think Chad [BRACKET “Reed”], Ricky [BRACKET “Carmichael”], Ivan [BRACKET “Tedesco”], and Heath Voss all had a good time with it. They had never done anything quite like that before. So I’ve been keeping in touch with Denny [BRACKET “Hartwig, with Live Nation”] and talking about rolling it out more broadly, and so we’re doing Toronto and Seattle this year. There’s a very well known Children’s Hospital in Toronto called Sick Kids, and I connected with them.

So MX for Children is a way that I work with different Children’s Hospitals to create charity events around motocross.

That’s really an amazing story. Was it difficult for you when you first started, trying to connect with some of the top riders?

It was difficult. I mean, I was Googling around and I found David Evans who was James Stewart’s manager, and through another connection I found Ricky’s manager. I presented it to both of them, and I don’t know if either of them ever presented it to Ricky or James, but they both said, ‘we don’t do individual things like this.’ A guy in David Mormon’s [BRACKET “Ricky Carmichael’s manager”] firm said I should contact Denny Hartwig. So I talked to Denny about it in the summer of ’05. He thought it was a great idea, so we met in L.A. and I told him about my concept and built some credibility, and our first event was very successful.

<So the organization really started with the event in Seattle in 2006?

I started the organization in 2005 with a thing called the MX Ride for Children in Washington. In my grand vision I would love to get this started in every state that has a motocross track to raise money for the local Children’s Hospital. Children’s Hospitals are all charity-funded.

Having Chad, Ricky, Ivan and Heath in Seattle last year must have been great. Do you know which riders are going with you to the hospital in Toronto this year?

For starters we’ll have Chad Reed and Ricky Carmichael.

That’s great. The rider visit to the hospital obviously brings in great PR and exposure, but the actual fund-raising is through the raffle and silent auction that you mentioned?

The concept of the Inside Line Experience is to ask people to go out and fundraise on behalf of the hospital. So basically I start to promote this as much in advance as possible, I try to get dealerships to help, and post on web forums. People can download a pledge form and go out and ask friends and sponsors to sponsor them, letting them know they’re raising money for a great cause, the Children’s Hospital, and that the top fundraisers win a benefit package. The fundraising actually started in mid-September.

Tell us about the awesome benefits that go to the top fundraisers.

The top fundraisers get a meet-and-great with Ricky and Chad and all the other riders that will sign-up as the momentum builds. They go from that to watch the pre-race press conference, and then they get to go watch a private practice of one of the teams. Then on main event day they get to tour one of the factory rigs and they get to walk the track during the press walk. They get an experience you just can’t buy. Oh, and they get great seats too.

One last question; you started our conversation by telling us about your son who was born prematurely and nearly lost his life on two occasions. How is he doing today?

He just had the best two months of his life. He is just about to be 22 months old and he has had four brain surgeries in that 22 months. He has a condition called hydrocephalus which basically creates pressure in the brain and without surgery they’ll die. When they start to get sick they’ll basically vomit until they get treated; it’s quite nasty. He’s had two months vomit-free—I know that’s more detail than you really wanted [BRACKET “laughs”]—and he’s just doing great. Their spirit is incredible. He’s an inspiring little guy.

It’s an inspiring story for sure.

Check out www.mxforchildren.org to download your pledge form and find more information.