Not all heroes wear capes, some wear biker jackets

SNOHOMISH, Wash., August 8, 2022 – Hollywood depictions of bikers over the years have helped perpetuate the stereotype that biker gangs are violent outlaws who spend their time between rides frequenting dive bars and running guns. While these clubs only make up 1% of Motorcycle clubs in the country, according to the American Motorcycle Association, even the most infamous MC’s come together with the rest to support the Guardians of the Children (GOC) – a nonprofit organization focused on using motorcycles as a tool for children to overcome child abuse.


Guardians of the Children San Antonio.

Members of Guardians of the Children are motorcycle enthusiasts who “adopt” recovering victims of child abuse, aged 0-17, into their family as “Little Guardians.” Some of the services they offer include escorting Little Guardians to court, attending school events at their request, and providing protection and support to create a safe space where the child can gain the confidence needed to process their trauma.

GOC’s mission, in short, is to improve the quality of life in their community by educating the public and making them aware of the steps to take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child abuse.

Typically, families will contact GOC with their concerns and the organization will respond to gather more information about the situation to see if it aligns with their mission statement. GOC will first make sure there is consent from the legal guardian and if anything is moving forward with the criminal justice system. The next step is meeting with its board to discuss the situation at hand and assigning two “Primaries” – fully patched members of the chapter who are local to the family and qualified to meet their needs.

As to not overwhelm the juvenile victim, the assigned Primaries spend their first meeting talking, playing games, and letting the child know that the organization is there for them. These initial meetings can take as little as 30 minutes to as long as three hours, Joe “Huckleberry” Wardlaw, founder and President of the Cascade Chapter of GOC, told the Lynnwood Times.

“Each kid’s needs really vary. We’re just another tool in the toolbox to help empower kids to not be afraid,” Wardlaw said.

After the child meets with these two Primaries, the board begins their “adoption” process and gathers club members together to meet with the child at a public space, such as a park, to show that they have a group of bikers supporting them and keeping them safe. At this meeting the child is presented a biker vest etched with their chosen road name and a few patches. The victim’s siblings, who may or may not be victims themselves, also have the option to be “adopted” and receive a vest with their chosen road name.

Guardians of the Children
Joe “Huckleberry” Wardlaw (center-right), President of Guardians of the Children Cascade Chapter with members at the Second annual Xtreme Couture G.I. Foundation poker run at the Evergreen Speedway in Monroe on Saturday, June 25, 2022. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Coincidentally enough, Wardlaw first discovered the organization by watching Jeff Tremaine’s 2013 Jackass spin-off, Bad Grandpa, starring Johnny Knoxville.

In one of the film’s scenes, Knoxville (playing the part of an 80-year-old man) reunites his grandson with his estranged father in a North Carolina bar. This bar also happens to be the gathering place of an NC chapter of GOC who immediately take interest in the father’s verbally abusive nature toward his son.

The scene was shot in a hidden camera-style where the only people in on the joke were the actors and a couple GOC chapter leaders. In other words, the GOC member’s reactions were authentic.

Wardlaw saw this scene and was so impressed with GOC’s way of intervening, that he reached out to the organization about starting his own chapter in Northern Washington. He found ten likeminded individuals in the biking community and began the Cascade chapter in 2017, which stretches from Seattle to the Canadian border.

Wardlaw was no stranger to the concept, having been a prior member of Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), a similar organization with slight differences, that laid the groundwork for GOC to form in San Antonio, Texas, by former BACA member Ruben Cano in 2006. The organization has since grown to 54 chapters across 19 states, as well as 6 chapters in Canada making it, technically, an international organization.

Both BACA and GOC have similar philosophies with the intake of families, but the difference lies in that BACA will typically withdraw after the child has undergone the criminal process to not be a reminder of the child’s trauma, Wardlaw told the Lynnwood Times.

“It’s a great philosophy to have [but] Guardians of the Children sees it a different way. We look at it as once a child is abused, they’re going to carry it with them their entire life,” Wardlaw told the Lynnwood Times. “We stay in that child’s life as long as the family wants us to.”

Another difference between GOC and BACA, Wardlaw noted, is GOC involves the entire family, not just the children, because, he explained, child abuse damages the family at large.

“We adopt the whole family; we don’t just adopt the victim of the crime because child abuse affects the whole family. The parents are damaged, the grandparents are damaged, [and] the siblings are damaged,” Wardlaw said.

Wardlaw continued that once these children are at least 18 years of age they are given the opportunity to apply to become members themselves, helping future families through the process, which many of them do.

“We’re not counselors, we’re not lawyers, [although] our members are from varying backgrounds…We have members that are attorneys, we have members that work for the water district, Microsoft, Boeing, different organization. [But] The services Guardians of the Children provide is we advocate for these children and if they’re looking for resources we try and help them find them,” Wardlaw said.

Just some of these resources include partnerships with local organizations such as Compass Health, Providence Medical Center, and Dawson’s Place.

“I’ve always given back to my community, and I love what we do. There’s nothing better than seeing a kid that is petrified, all the sudden be confident to go into a courtroom and tell their story about what happened to them, so that we can stop these people doing this to kids,” Wardlaw said.

As a certified 501(c) nonprofit, private donations make up most of Guardians of the Children’s funding. The chapter holds multiple fundraisers throughout the year, such as awareness motorcycle rides with auction items, and meetups at bars and restaurants.

This upcoming September the Cascade Chapter will be holding a fundraiser at Hops and Drops in Snohomish. Wardlaw shared that he will notify the Lynnwood Times when the exact dates for the event have been confirmed.

Second annual Xtreme Couture G.I. Foundation poker run at the Evergreen Speedway in Monroe on Saturday, June 25, 2022. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Kienan Briscoe

Michael Kienan Briscoe (referred to by his middle name 'Kienan') has a BA in Journalism from Arizona State University and has worked as a freelancer for a variety of publications and organizations throughout New York City and Seattle. Journalism, to him, is one of the most important public tools to ensure an educated and aware society of events surrounding them. When he is not reporting he enjoys writing fiction and poetry, playing guitar, reading classic literature, and getting outdoors. He lives in Seattle with his two dogs.

Kienan Briscoe has 283 posts and counting. See all posts by Kienan Briscoe

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