Mike Traynor with Los Angeles Ride for Kids Stars Marisa (left) and Lisa in May 2009.
Mike Traynor, president and cofounder of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and cofounder of the Ride for Kids motorcycle charity program, died Sept. 12, 2009, in Asheville, N.C., after a brief illness. He was 70.
Mike and his late wife, Dianne Traynor, began the Ride for Kids program in 1984 to raise funds for childhood brain tumor research. Its success and growth led them to start the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF) in 1991. It is now the world’s largest philanthropic organization dedicated to supporting the search for the cause of and cure for childhood brain tumors, having raised over $50 million for research and family support programs.
The following year, Mike helped create the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, which has accrued the nation’s largest epidemiological database on brain tumors. Seed money from the PBTF also established Neuro-Oncology, the Society of Neuro-Oncology’s premier international journal.
The author of national magazine articles on grassroots fundraising, Mike was also a motivational speaker for service organizations and educational institutions, as well as a guest lecturer at the American Press Institute. He was featured often on local and national network television programs, as well as ESPN and SpeedTV. In each of his public speaking opportunities, he worked to increase awareness of childhood brain tumors.
At the time of his death, Mike served on the board of directors for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States. He was the recipient of numerous awards of recognition from the Society of Neuro-Oncology, the International Society of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, and the International Brain Tumor Therapy and Research Meeting.
Before starting the Ride for Kids program, Mike was vice president and general manager of newspaper publishing corporations and served on the board of directors for the International Newspaper Promotion Association and KRGR Media. He was also president of Sales Marketing Executives of Atlanta.
Motorcycling was Mike’s enduring passion. He began riding as a teenager growing up outside Chicago, Illinois. His love for motorcycling continued during his stint in the Army while stationed in Japan. In those days, the G.I.s he rode with built their own short track with army bulldozers using volcanic lava as a track surface. His fellow American and Japanese competitors raced on the earliest of production bikes available, while Mike raced his daily commuter, a slightly modified Honda Dream. He eventually became a known local racer, winning a championship in 1961.
Mike continued to ride bikes and race sports cars throughout his post-Army life, eventually returning to racing as an endurance and sprint road racer. Mike wrapped up his racing career in the early 1980s, finishing 11th nationally in an endurance road race series with his oldest son, Danny, as his co-rider and his two other sons as his pit crew.
It was around this time that Mike combined his love of motorcycling with the desire to help children with brain tumors, when he saw the struggle and pain of a colleague whose child was stricken with the devastating disease. Determined to bring an end to the untimely death of children, he and Dianne worked with their riding friends to increase funding for basic laboratory research into pediatric brain cancer.
Mike’s work with Ride for Kids has brought a new awareness to the positive impact that charitable motorcyclists have had over the past several decades. The goodwill generated about the American motorcyclist has been a direct result of his tireless efforts. In radio, television, print and online media, he has borne witness to the hard work and giving nature of motorcyclists. Thanks to the generous support of the motorcycling community, progress is being made in the search for the cause of and cure for kids’ brain tumors.
As a worldwide ambassador for the motorcycling community, Mike received several outstanding motorcyclist awards, including the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Hazel Kolb Brighter Image Award, AMA Road Rider of the Year, Rider magazine’s Top Supporter and Rider of the Year, Motorcycle Consumer News’ Ed Culberson Memorial Award, and Motorcyclist magazine’s Motorcyclist of the Year.
Mike and Dianne were inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2013.