LACONIA — The 11th annual Brenda's Ride with Friends drew a record turnout of 239 motorcycles Saturday, with well in excess of 300 riders making the scenic run around Lake Winnipesaukee to raise funds for the Oncology Department at Lakes Region General Hospital.
Bikers set out from the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound at mid-morning with an escort of five police motorcycles from Laconia, Meredith, Tilton, Northfield and Alton and returned to the Lobster Pound for an afternoon of music, food and fund-raising raffles.
The event was started in 2003 by Brenda Ganong, a cancer survivor since 1997, and her husband, John, and drew 35 bikes the first year it was held.
Since then participation has grown every year, and last year the event drew 225 bikers and raised $16,500.
''It's amazing when you look in the mirror on your bike and see all of the people who have shown up to ride,'' says Brenda, who marvels at the show of support for the event and the continuing support of the many people who have shown up year after year to take part.
One rider who has been at all 11 events is Kurt McLaughlin, a firefighter from Cambridge, Mass., who grew up with John Ganong in Somerville, Mass., where they both rode motorcycles together as teenagers.
"I wouldn't miss it,'' says McLaughlin, who just arrived back home from attending the Sturgis, S.D., motorcycle rally and was riding with a contingent of Cambridge firefighters in Saturday's ride.
"This community is unbelievable. Everybody pulls together to help out. That's why it's so great to live here," said John Ganong, who moved to the Lakes Region 30 years ago from Somerville, Mass., and has been involved in the real estate field in the Lakes Region for many years.
Brenda Ganong says that when she first heard that she had breast cancer she thought her life was over and that she might never even see her then 16-year-old daughter, Christina, graduate from high school.
''Now she has two sons, and I'm a real happy grandmother. It's like a miracle,'' says Brenda, who says that one of her grandsons, 11-year-old Ben Gloddy of Northfield , is the New England flat track motorcycle racing junior champion.
She isn't the only Ganong who feels that a miracle has taken place in their life.
Her husband, John, who had a heart transplant in January 2011, says that he's ''never felt better in his life.''
John, who has been known to ride his motorcycle dressed in a Santa Claus outfit at various fundraising events ever since he moved to the Lakes Region, performed a Blue Brothers routine with his son, Jason, Saturday afternoon.
Music was provided by Matt Langley and band AXIS.
Winner's Circle Auto Sales Inc. in Tilton was the $1,000 Gold Sponsor of the 2013 Brenda's Ride. Joining them as $500 Silver Sponsors were The Looney Bin Bar and Grill and Pilgrim Consolidators.