The Sentinel Knights Riders Against Child Abuse are a group of area bikers who have become involved in helping the victims of bullying and abuse in the area, and are attempting to show children that adults can be trustworthy and care about the welfare of children. They wear black leather with their club “colors,” or patches, proudly, so there is no question as to what group they are with. Behind the leather and motorcycle gear, though, is a group of people with big hearts for “the littles,” as they refer to the children that need their help, whether it be a school bullying issue or an abuse situation at their home.
“We’re a bunch of good people trying to help people,” Scott Needham, president of the club, explained. “We want to change the image that every patch (biker) is mean. You can’t assume,” he added.
“We’re just normal people,” said Valerie Needham, Prospect Officer of the Club. “But we want to play our part to help as many kids as possible,” added Scott Needham.
The 501(c)3 non-profit club has about 25 members and was formed about 15 years ago by “Ponch,” “Oscar,” and “John,” Needham said. Every new member is required to get a background check and fill out an application. The average age of members is about 40, and the male/female ratio is about 50/50. Owning a motorcycle is not required. Members meet monthly and pay monthly dues which are used to help fund necessities for their work. “It all goes back to the kids,” Needham said.
“It’s about having fun, being a family, but we also need to take care of business,” said Needham.
Most of their members have had their own personal experiences with bullying or abuse in their background. “We’ve all gone through it, and it sticks with you the rest of your life,” explained Jeremy Rheynard, Vice President of the Sentinel Riders. “Kids, especially, hold it in and don’t talk about it, even though they did nothing wrong.”
The Sentinel Knights provide a variety of functions with the goal of helping kids. Fundraising is one way to do that—they organize rides, poker runs, and silent auctions with the funds going towards a person or family in need. They have provided food, clothing, school supplies, or a place to stay for those they are helping. They accompany kids to their court dates, understanding just how intimidating the experience can be for someone in their situation.
They have acted as protection for someone who is in fear; recruiting a group of their members to surround the person. They have helped in searches for someone who has escaped from the police; wearing their club “colors” makes them look like just another biker, Needham explained, and they can get in positions that a police officer in uniform can’t.
Most of their contact with victims is after the fact. After the police have been there, charges filed, and left. “We want to wrap a circle around the family, to let them know we care,” Needham said.
“It’s therapy for me,” explained Rheynard. “I held it in for years but I’m comfortable speaking about it now and I can bond with the kids who are going through the same thing.”
“We give them love and support,” Needham said. “I’m tired of hearing about 12-year-old suicides.”
They discovered that those they help often want to get involved with the group and give back. They have the “Junior Knights,” for their younger members, and they also wear a black leather vest with the club center patch logo. “You helped me, so I want to do something,” they hear from many. It becomes a ripple effect, Rheynard said, and they gain new members from helping.
If you would like to help or to get more information, contact them through their Facebook page, Sentinel Knights Riders Against Child Abuse. They can also be found on Twitter at @KnightsSentinel.