Mike and Dianne Traynor are best known for their work organizing fund-raising rides that would become the Ride for Kids motorcycle charity program and later the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. They began the Ride for Kids in Atlanta in 1984 to raise funds for childhood brain tumor research and have since raised tens of millions of dollars to become the world's largest non-governmental source of funding for childhood brain tumor research.
Mike Traynor died in 2009 and Dianne Traynor died in 2012.
Growing up, Mike loved motorcycles, riding as a teenager in Chicago. As a G.I. stationed in Japan, Mike raced with his daily rider—a slightly modified Honda Dream. He eventually became a locally recognized racer, winning a championship in 1961.
After the war, he started a family, continued racing as an amateur, sometimes racing endurance road races with his sons. He climbed the corporate ladder and became a vice president in the newspaper-publishing world in Atlanta.
When a colleague’s daughter was stricken with a brain tumor, he found his true calling. Working with his wife, Dianne, herself a teacher and accountant, he started a local fundraising ride for the cause.
“As far back as I can remember, he was obsessed with motorcycling,” says Mike’s son, Brian Traynor. “He decided to use that love of motorcycling to raise a little money to help out a hospital in Georgia.”
The first event raised about $4,000 from local motorcyclists, Brian remembers. It became a yearly ride, and then expanded it into what would become the Ride for Kids events, and, ultimately, the creation of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, which has raised more than $50 million for the cause.
His success came from an amazing attitude, says Larry Little, Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation board member and vice president and general manager of the Marketplace Events Motorcycle Group.
“Once you were around Mike for even the smallest moments, you realized that he was a guy who couldn’t take no for an answer, and was so infectious in his positive attitude,” Little says. “That came from within, and it rubbed off on a lot of people. Once he had a vision, he didn’t let it pass. He went firmly after it.”
One of the Ride For Kids’ secondary benefits was that it provided a rallying point for motorcyclists, Brian says.
“If my dad were alive today, he would say the things he’s most proud of would be not only be the medical research and the healing that came as a result of all of the work that he and Dianne did, but also what it’s done for motorcycling,” he says.
“When he’d tell people he rode a motorcycle, and they’d say, ‘Oh, you’re one of those,’ he would kind of cringe,” Brian says. “The Ride for Kids events were instrumental in helping out the image of motorcycling. Lots of riders were seen doing a lot of good.”
How would the Traynors have reacted to being elevated to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame? Little says they’d be honored.
“Knowing Mike and Dianne, I think they’d be very gracious, very honored,” Little says. “But it’s kind of neat that I know Mike would see it as one more way to get the publicity for the foundation to help find the cause, and cure the disease of childhood brain tumors. He would be appreciative, but he was definitely a salesman. It was hard not to be inspired by Mike and Dianne.”