Bikers who hit the road en masse Sunday to honor murder victim Sierah Joughin are also determined to prevent others from facing a similar tragedy.
The 2nd Annual Keeping Our Girls Safe (KOGS) Memorial Ride is not only to celebrate a promising life cut short but to empower women through free self-defense classes, said Nikki Kolasinski, the mother of Joughin’s boyfriend, Josh.
On July 30, she anticipates that hundreds of motorcyclists will converge at Toledo Harley-Davidson, 7960 Central Ave., for the 2 1/2-hour memorial event for Joughin. Escorted by the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office, Josh will lead the riders beginning at noon. They will travel to Amboy Township Cemetery, where Joughin is buried, then to Assumption, Metamora, Lyons, Morenci, Mich., Fayette, and Goll Woods in Archbold.
The journey will end at the Veterans Pavilion at the Fulton County Fairgrounds at about 1:30 p.m. There, riders will share a meal, listen to music by The Harley Packer Band, and join in gun and 50/50 raffles to raise funds.
Riders who pre-register will pay a $20 fee that includes the meal and a commemorative T-shirt; the fee is $25 the day of the event, which also includes the meal and T-shirt. Those wishing to participate only in the ride can pre-register for $10 or pay $15 on the event day.
Day-of-event registration begins Sunday at Toledo Harley-Davidson at 9 a.m.
All proceeds from the KOGS memorial ride benefit free self-defense classes for women taught mainly at the Franciscan Center in Sylvania by Lt. John Roof of the Wauseon Police Department and John Pinkstaff of the Sylvania Police Department. Since February, over 180 women have received training.
“An event like this really stirs up the community, and we want to give the ladies in our community their confidence back,” Josh said.
Nikki Kolasinski added: “We’re doing everything we can to make sure girls are educated in awareness and personal safety.”
She also hopes to establish a scholarship fund for Evergreen High School graduates pursuing careers in law enforcement or as first responders.
“We feel very strongly that, if it wasn’t for all (those professionals) who came out to help us, we wouldn’t have been able to bring Sierah home. We want good young men and women to continue in those fields,” Kolasinski said.
She and her husband, Bob, a retired Ottawa Hills, Ohio, police lieutenant, pitched the idea of a KOGS memorial ride to Josh last year, not long after Joughin’s death.
“I was a little skeptical about it, but I wanted to do something to make this as good a situation as I possibly could,” he said. “It’s a lot of work putting on something like this, and it’s for a good cause. It’s a very emotional day, but it’s a good emotional day.”
The inaugural event was organized by Josh, his parents, his sister Mary, and Joughin’s mother, Sheila Vaculik, within two months. So quickly, in fact, that Nikki Kolasinski expected at most 100 bikers to participate. She was stunned when 800 showed up – some from across Ohio.
“They just kept coming and coming,” she said. “We were all so very overwhelmed with love and appreciation. It was phenomenal to see it, and very emotional for everyone involved.”
This year, the ride has been more extensively promoted, including in Thunder Roads Magazine, a publication for motorcycle enthusiasts.
Kolasinski said the KOGS ride was also created to show support for Josh as a member of the male community. “The only way we could think of doing that was to bring the motorcycle population together. They’re a very caring, loving community. We wanted this for Josh as well as the community.”
While the ride is open to both male and female bikers, “I wanted to do something more for the boyfriends and dads and husbands in the community,” Josh said. “I wanted to put on an event that is more geared toward them and our roles in society. There are walks and bicycle rides, but I wanted to hit a different demographic and get the guys involved.”
His mother said the event has changed her son’s life, adding, “When the community showed up on behalf of us, it really mattered.”
Josh agrees. “It raises you up a little bit because you know you have so many people behind you,” he said.
The memorial ride is an event Joughin would have appreciated, Josh said. “If this happened to someone else, she would definitely be right out there by everyone’s side, doing what she could.”
On a more personal note, the ride is also to celebrate the love Josh and Sierah shared, and to demonstrate that love trumps evil, Kolasinski said.
“It’s keeping her spirit alive, making sure that people know that what was behind a heinous crime was a beautiful life and a beautiful face, and a beautiful love between the two,” she said.
Josh said he couldn’t have asked for more than the support the public has shown the Joughin and Kolasinski families.
“From the families’ point of view, thank you for all the support, and thank you for standing behind us,” he said.
For more information on the memorial ride, call 419-583-6197, visit www.KOGSafe.com or email KOGSafe@gmail.com.
The women’s self-defense classes are scheduled from month to month. To request an invitation, visit the Keeping Our Girls Safe Facebook page.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.