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December 9, 2009

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Bikers rev it up for needy children

SANTA was sighted early on the streets of Shanghai and he wasn't riding his usual sleigh pulled by reindeer but a rumbling vintage motorbike with sidecar.

Biker Santa revved it up for a good cause last Sunday, along with other city sidecar enthusiasts who took mentally challenged young people and adults for a ride.

More than 20 bikes rode in a parade in a charity event for the Sunshine Home, organized by the Junior French Chamber of Commerce.

The Forget-Me-Not organization is run through the chamber and works with corporations to provide socially meaningful activities for their employees.

In past events both Chinese and French companies have organized activities for disadvantaged children and other socially vulnerable groups.

Past president of the French Chamber Thomas Charbrieres is also the founder of a new club, the Shanghai People's Riders' Club whose members took part in Sunday's parade.

The riders' club held its event earlier in the year when members rode through Pudong New Area. Charbrieres says the club provides an information-swapping forum for owners of bikes with sidecars and those interested in buying a sidecar.

It encourages safety and responsible driving as well as charitable activities, says Charbrieres.

He says the aim of Forget-Me-Not is to bridge the corporate world and the broader society.

"At the end of the day people were happy, playing games and having the time of their life," he says.

"It is a win-win for both groups, if we give to the kids they give back to us and everyone is happy."

On Sunday, 15 young people from the Sunshine Home and the riders met at Huashan Park where they played games like tug-of-war and "Simon Says." Then the kids got into the sidecars and got a ride home through the streets of Shanghai.

It was the second time Shanghai's sidecar drivers have worked with children with disabilities. For Easter, the bikers dressed as bunnies.

Forget-Me-Not plans a similar event next year.

The Forget-Me-Not events are part of a broad range of charity and capacity-building activities run by the French Junior Chamber.

Its work has included the Shanghai Young Bakers program that has trained underprivileged young adults in Western baking skills so they can get jobs in hotels and in the food and beverage industry.

"The chamber is trying to provide links between expats and the Chinese reality around them," Charbrieres says.

"Many of us predominately hang out with expats and do expat things, and because of the language and cultural barrier it is very hard for people to be involved. The idea is that we receive a lot in this country and we want to give back."

For more information, please contact Forget-Me-Not by e-mail at or the People's Riders Club at


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