Riding for a Voice Finishes Strong

The motorcade of the 7th and final Riding for a Voice event was escorted from the parking lot of the Calais Motor Inn by the Color Guard (Commander Mike McLean and Troy Ramsdell) of the American Legion Sherman Brothers Post #3. (Photo by Lura Jackson) See two more photos in this week's paper on page 22.

By Lura Jackson

 

Every July for the past seven years, the streets of Calais have roared with noise as a hundred vehicles amass and leave as a group on a designated morning. This past Saturday saw the last such gathering, as the Riding for a Voice campaign to raise awareness of childhood sexual abuse has officially come to an end. The final ride was well attended with approximately 87 motorcycles and 12 cars traveling in the motorcade to Machias and back.

Organized by survivor and former Robbinston resident Kayla Garriott, Riding for a Voice was originally designed as a way to openly speak out against childhood sexual abuse while raising funds for organizations that actively combat it. Garriott, who was a crucial figure in the sentencing of her father following years of abuse committed against her as a child, is a dedicated advocate for fellow survivors at all stages in the process.

Garriott enlisted the assistance of Bikers Against Child Abuse and other local groups such as the Wabanaki Warriors to create a network of support for survivors as part of the Breathe the Air Riding for a Voice campaign. Her mother, Robin Bouchard, and her stepfather, John, have both been steady allies in building the event each year.

Over the years, thousands of dollars have been raised for nonprofits through Riding for a Voice. This year, AMHC Sexual Assault and Next Step Domestic Violence Project were each chosen to be supported by the ride. Members from each organization were there to share words of support and to accept award checks that would be later made out for at least $1,000 each.

Addressing the assembled crowd of participants at the Calais Motor Inn just prior to the motorcade leaving, Garriott was sure to thank those that have assisted with hosting the event each year. Among those she thanked were sign and tee shirt designer Mary Pelletier and Troy Ramsdell and Mike McLean of the American Legion Color Guard. Lastly, she thanked her mother. “I think we all know the ride wouldn’t be the same without my mom,” Garriott said. “Thank you for everything, for all the support and for believing in me.”

Garriott’s stepfather, John, read a portion of the sentencing letter that she had written to her father. The letter was filled with pain and anger, but it also carried evidence of empowerment gained from speaking against her abuser. Afterwards, Garriott thanked the crowd for listening and said that she couldn’t write like that anymore. “Ever since I’ve broken my silence, the darkness doesn’t exist,” Garriott said, illuminating the importance of raising one’s voice.

“This whole ride was to the break the silence of childhood sexual abuse,” Garriott said. “For those that are still out there in silence, we ride for them today. And we’re going to make this really loud.”

 

Garriott encourages fans of the event to continue it in whatever capacity they are able. If you would like to support survivors, you may do so by donating time or resources to Next Step, AMHC or another related organization.