by Lisa Tome
Don't let the bushy beards and denim vests fool you, this group of bikers have hearts of gold.
BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) is an international organization. The local chapter, Patapsco Valley, has members from Cecil County and other parts of the state on its rolls.
The BACA mission is simple - to create a safer environment for abused children. "We exist as a body of bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live" is part of their creed.
They also have various levels of intervention - from riding to the home of a child to going to court to appear with them as protectors.
Ike, (the group does not provide their last names) president of the Patapsco Valley Chapter explained how the group operates.
"It's all strictly volunteer and no profit," said Ike.
BACA members work with law enforcement, the Office of the State's Attorney, and other groups such as the Department of Social Services.
They do not accept referrals from individuals.
Ike said the group members find out information during an intake process. They then give the child a vest which matches those worn by the BACA members. The child picks a "road name". "They are part of our family. When you see a big bunch of hairy bikers, nobody wants to mess with their family," said Ike.
"We take kids who are broken and make them able to live in the world," said Ike. "We will walk into court and surround the child so they don't have to see the defendant. We do whatever we can do to make the child feel safe. As long as we are there, the child knows they are safe."
"They are invaluable to us. The victims are coming to court and feeling empowered. They provide an invaluable service. They reach out to the kids after a case is over and we are not able to do that," said Mary Burnell, an assistant state's attorney for Cecil. "It makes me feel good to know that someone is watching over them after (court)."