The distinctive sound of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is widely recognized and loved by many MDA Summer Camp campers and counselors. For them, that sound is synonymous with freedom and that’s because of the ongoing support and commitment of Harley-Davidson and their dealer network or dealers. In 2015 alone, more than 59 Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) chapters and friends visited MDA Summer Camps across the country to give sidecar rides and spend time with the campers and volunteers.
“As an owner of a Harley with a sidecar, it’s an annual tradition to attend MDA Summer Camp and spend an evening with campers giving them a special ride,” says Ken Ostermann, Harley-Davidson’s global digital director. “It’s one of those really cool moments, offering them something they never have had the opportunity to experience otherwise. I really enjoy doing that — making those personal connections not only with campers but with the counselors and volunteers who help make that dream experience of summer camp possible.”
Ostermann has worked for Harley-Davidson for more than 24 years and throughout that time has developed a rich history with MDA by participating in various events, including Harley Night at MDA Summer Camp and the Milwaukee MDA Black-N-Blue Gala. In addition, his sons have also dedicated their time by volunteering as MDA Summer Camp counselors for three consecutive years.
“It’s been an amazing experience for them,” Ostermann says. “They’ve developed strong friendships with so many of the campers. I hope it’s been as fulfilling for the campers as I know it’s been for my boys. It’s inspirational to see the special relationships that have formed and how they’re helping develop one another as they work through different sets of challenges, together.”
And to continue the family tradition, Ostermann’s daughter is looking forward to reaching the age requirement so she can become an MDA Summer Camp counselor just like her brothers.
A shared vision of living unlimited
The rich partnership between MDA and Harley-Davidson has been bolstered by employees at the national level as well as Harley dealers and riders.
“It’s a long, rich history. We talk about our brand as fulfilling dreams of personal freedom, and there couldn’t be a greater alignment with MDA. We all seek personal freedom. Some seek it from getting on their Harley and escaping the everyday world. MDA families seek it in their fight against these life-threatening diseases. Together, we continue to fight for these families and their everyday freedoms so we can all live unlimited,” he says.
To date, Harley-Davidson Motor Company and its dealers, customers, employees, suppliers and H.O.G. chapters have raised more than $96 million over the past 35 years in support of MDA’s mission to save and improve lives.
“This partnership is a connection that our customers have been able to not only rally around, but feel on an emotional level. You see and understand the importance of the work and the difference it’s making in so many lives, and it’s very powerful,” he explains.
On a personal level, Ostermann had the opportunity to work with former MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Mike Neufeldt (1985-1986 and 1987-1988) for more than 13 years. Neufeldt, who worked in online programs and operations at Harley-Davidson, lost his battle with Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy in February 2015.
“He was an incredible asset to our team, and everyone loved working with him on a personal and professional level,” Ostermann remembers. “Mike continues to be missed. How he interacted with others, how he worked, he was every bit as capable as everyone else, but he may have had to go about it in a different way. He was an important part of the team.”
For Ostermann, families like Mike Neufeldt’s inspire him every day as they break down barriers with a remarkable can-do spirit.
“For me, living unlimited means living without constraints, without being held back,” Ostermann notes. “It’s about taking everyday moments and thinking beyond ‘can’ts’ and shifting to what everyone can do, which is something Mike showed us every day.”
For many individuals who live unlimited, life is about the journey, not the destination. MDA is proud to have partners and supporters like Harley-Davidson and its dealers, customers, employees, suppliers and H.O.G. chapters to join us in this journey to help MDA families – and inspire individuals nationwide to – live unlimited.