SIOUX CITY | Since its inception in 2000, Awesome Biker Nights has given away more than $1,000,000 to charitable causes in Siouxland.
This year's motorcycle rally begins Thursday night and runs through Saturday in the Historic Fourth District.
The St. Florian Fire and Burn Foundation, one of seven designated charities for 2017, was one of the earliest beneficiaries of funds generated by the rally, which annually draws thousands of people to downtown Sioux City. St. Florian, a nonprofit group, supports area burn victims and hosts a yearly Miracle Burn Camp for burn survivors between ages eight and 18.
"In all honesty, they have really been the funding source that has sustained our foundation," Stacey Loen, president of St. Florian, said of Awesome Bikers Night. "We have a real small organization, it's all volunteer-run, and we have been able to support our portion of Miracle Burn Camp for the last 20 years essentially with the funding they have given us."
In the first few years of Awesome Biker Nights, Loen said St. Florian was among the only recipient. The rally later branched out to give money to other groups. Each year, St. Florian has received an average of about $20,000.
"As far as major donors, they are our major donor," she said.
At the Community Action Agency of Siouxland, Awesome Biker Nights money has helped the group obtain matching federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was used at the agency's Crossroads Shelter for Homeless Women and Children.
Crossroads provides shelter for women and their children, who can stay in the program for as long as two years, as they try to obtain housing, employment and even education. Many of the women come from abusive circumstances or have had substance problems in their lives.
The group, which has received donations from Awesome Biker Nights for several years, collected around $6,000 last year.
Jean Logan, executive director of the Community Action Agency, said the money was doubly useful, since it helped the group obtain federal dollars.
"The federal government will give you a certain amount of money if you can demonstrate that you have community support and involvement, and in order to do that you have to raise funds locally," Logan said. "So this allows us to meet that requirement that we have local money going into this project."
Having a relationship with local charities can be beneficial to both parties as well. STARS (Special Troopers Adaptive Riding School), one of the charities to receive Awesome Biker Nights funds, will provide about 20 volunteer Friday and Saturday night for the event.
Julie Dorn, the program director at STARS, said that her organization uses donations from the rally to help lower the fees for people who receive the group's services. STARS provides animal therapies for dozens of area individuals with a variety of disabilities, ranging in age from two to 95 years old.
The fees participants are charged are only 25 percent of actuals cost, with the remainder subsidized with funds from other sources, like Awesome Biker Nights donations.
"The funding that we have received from them really helps with our operational expenses," Dorn said.