The members of BACA certainly look the part of hard-core bikers: large, bearded men tricked out in black leather and chains, their jackets and vests blazoned with gaudy patches depicting clinched fists and the Jolly Roger skull and crossbones.
But this is no "one-percenter" gang of toughs looking for thrills and spills on the open road. Sure, they ride big motorcycles, and they love them.
But they love children even more, and say they would gladly put themselves in harm's way to keep any young person from danger.
Meet Bikers Against Child Abuse, a group of two-wheeling activists who work with shelter advocates and prosecutors in order to empower children who have unjustly suffered at the hands of those who should care for them most.
A half-dozen members of BACA's North Missouri Chapter met with more than 20 representatives from local social services agencies and law enforcement Friday at the Nodaway County Administration Center to discuss the organization's goals and activities.
Essentially, BACA members have pledged to do "whatever it takes" to protect battered children while empowering them to confront their abusers in court and move on with their lives.
The North Missouri Chapter leader goes by the name of "Taz." BACA members use "road names" in order to mask their identities from abusers who might seek revenge on those committed to putting them behind bars.
Taz is a big, bald deep-chested guy with more than enough muscle to justify his paunch. He opened last week's session with the grim words, "Would you take a bullet for a child — we would."
But as the program went on, it became clear that BACA is more than tough talk. The international organization was founded John Paul "Chief" Lilly, a social worker and therapist who for many years taught as an adjunct instructor at Brigham Young University.
Lilly became convinced that law enforcement and the courts alone were incapable of providing abused children with the support they needed to recover.
In practical terms, Taz said, that means BACA members serve as a surrogate family for the child — a motorcycle-riding family of imposing, confident men and women who offer support, friendship and, if necessary, physical protection.
Usually, Taz said, the organization is called in to help at the request of shelter advocates or prosecuting attorneys. Once made aware that a child needs assistance, BACA members climb on their bikes and meet with the youngster at his or her home, where they conduct an "adoption ceremony." The child is given a denim motorcycle vest decorated with BACA patches, and two of the organization's members are assigned to serve as primary contacts.
The jacket patches contain slogans such as "I'm in the family," "I will not live in fear" and "empowered." Depending on their age and emotional need, some of the kids also receive a BACA teddy bear complete with its own denim vest and head bandana.
Page 2 of 2 - Subsequent actions carried out by BACA members may include providing a physical presence at the home, visiting the child at school and intervening when abusers seek to re-establish contact. That last part can get a little dicey, Taz admits.
"We do not condone violence," he said, "but we don't back down."
Several of the North Missouri BACA members either have or have retired from careers in law enforcement and related professions, and Taz said a number of the riders carry legally concealed firearms.
BACA members also sometimes accompany children to court and sit in the courtroom by way of offering moral support as the youngsters testify.
"Our purpose is to empower children not to be afraid of the world they live in," Taz said.
Based in Cameron, the 20 or so members of BACA's North Missouri Chapter have become involved in child abuse cases across the region, including a couple in Nodaway County. The group was asked to give last week's presentation by Meghann Kosman, a court/victim advocate with the Children and Family Center of Northwest Missouri.
The group is currently looking for members, but, with children's lives at stake, joining requires a bit more than sewing a patch on a motorcycle jacket. All prospective members must be fingerprinted and pass a National Crime Information Center background check.
After that, probationary riders are required to accumulate an 80 percent participation rate in BACA activities for one year before receiving the large black-and-red patch marking full membership.
The patch displays a clinched fist representing the group's "commitment to stop child abuse" and a skull and crossbones symbolizing "death to child abuse."
Anyone wishing more information about BACA membership should call (660) 895-5111 or (660) 734-1570.