A member of the Phantom Gymnastics team, Bella spent five days in a coma but miraculously survived her bout with Streptococcus Pneumonia sepsis. She is currently undergoing rehabilitation at a Boston hospital and preparing to return to school this fall, as her family updates their home to adapt to her new needs.
Deeply touched by Bella's story and spirit, Weeden began selling bracelets on his Facebook page, mostly networking with friends, family members and coworkers at Grappone Toyota in Concord, where he has worked as a manager for the past four years. Around that time, someone suggested planning a benefit motorcycle ride in Bella's honor.
"We picked a date right then and there," Weeden said.
Traveling to Laconia for New Hampshire Bike Week over Father's Day weekend, Weeden passed out fliers, alerting other Granite State motorcycle lovers of the upcoming event.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Last Sunday's benefit bike ride boasted 213 riders on 142 motorcycles, and brought in upwards of $12,000.
Event supporters met at Burgundy's Billiard Room in Derry early on the morning of July 11, with all 142 motorcycles making their way to Alton Bay and back over the course of the day in a ride lasting approximately three hours. Weeden asked participants to donate $25 per bike and $10 per passenger.
Others, who preferred traveling on four wheels instead of two, helped in other ways: registering bikers, overseeing the many raffles and the parking area, and cooking a barbecue supper for the returning bikers on Sunday evening.
"The donor list of raffle prizes is just tremendous," said Weeden, noting that over 40 donors provided the 50-plus raffle prizes.
Local police officers from throughout the region volunteered their time to escort the cyclists, with Salem Police Officer Michael Verocki leading the police escort, along with officers from Londonderry, Methuen, Mass., and the New Hampshire State Police.
The classic rock band Roadhouse provided entertainment following the ride. Weeden said the band was determined to perform despite a major setback to the lead singer just one week earlier. "He suffered a heart attack on July 4," Weeden said. "But he vowed to come out that day; the story just touched his heart."
Plans are already in the works for another Bella's Ride next year, if need dictates. "We'll make it even larger than this one," Weeden said.