Motorcyclists and others are gearing up for the second annual Marlee’s Ride fundraiser that supports scholarships to send 12- and 13-year-old girls to Julia Clukey’s Summer Camp for Girls at Camp KV in Readfield.
The 70-mile loop ride kicks off at 11 a.m. May 18 at Pepper’s Garden & Grill in Winthrop and winds through Augusta, Farmington and Winthrop.
Entry fees are $20 per biker and $10 per passenger.
The ride is one of several fundraisers each year that support the Marlee Fund, a foundation set up in memory of 14-year-old Marlee Johnston, who was killed by a 14-year-old neighbor near her Fayette home on Nov. 26, 2005. Patrick Armstrong pleaded guilty to manslaughter in December 2006 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison, with all but 16 years suspended, and four years’ probation.
Marlee’s father, Ted Johnston, helps organize and plan the programs. Last year, money raised by the motorcycle ride and events afterward — a barbecue and live music by The Cavemen, featuring Jeff Farnsworth — sent eight girls to the camp.
“I miss Marlee all the time,” Johnston said. “What motivates this is seeing Marlee’s smile on other kids. It’s the one thing that keeps me going.”
Last year 60 motorcycles and 70 drivers and passengers participated in the event, said Johnston, a biker himself.
He talked of receiving a letter from one teen’s mother who said her daughter received a partial scholarship one year but was unable to afford to return the next year. Johnston said Julia Clukey, the Olympic luger from Augusta, intervened and said there was funding available from the Marlee Fund, so the girl could attend a second year.
Clukey is a spokeswoman for the Maine Beer & Wine Distributors Association, promoting responsibility and good decision-making to students at high schools across Maine.
“While nothing will bring Marlee back, her loving parents and older brother Alec founded the Marlee Fund to celebrate her life and spirit by providing support for programs and activities that were important to Marlee and that can help enrich the lives of children of Kennebec County and surrounding communities,” said a news release from Johnston about the motorcycle charity ride.
Other annual Marlee Fund fundraisers include a golf tournament that supports scholarships to enable local teens to attend Kents Hill School. Usually four or five students from Whitefield to Fayette are able to attend as day students using these funds. “These are kids who come from good families and who otherwise could not afford to go,” Johnston said. That endowment has reached about $150,000 so far.
This year’s tournament is scheduled for June 23 at The Belgrade Lakes Golf Club.
Then there’s the annual Alpine Ski Race for middle and high school skiers and the Marlee Ski Club at Kents Hill. The club provides practice hill time for high school Alpine skiers from Maranacook, Winthrop and Spruce Mountain high schools.
The fund also buys paperback books for the Marlee Reading Room in the Winthrop Middle School library and the Fayette Central School library. Marlee attended both schools, and had planned to follow her brother at Kents Hill School.
Johnston said the fund buys books such as those by Tamora Pierce. “My daughter liked them because a young woman was the heroine, and there was always something moralistic about good and evil. Kids today need to see themselves with the opportunity to succeed, and that’s what those books do.”