They’re a sight to behold at parades each summer: grown men sporting unmistakable red hats, riding comedically small motorcycles.
Alas, the Edmonton Al Shamal Shrine Motor Corps said thieves have rained on their parade.
Last weekend, someone broke into the organizer’s sea container and stole five parade motorbikes. This, after someone also broke in and stole two other bikes earlier this summer.
“We’re now seven bikes short,” Shriner Jim Matheson said.
“The summer for us is basically finished.”
The vehicles in question: 1967 Honda Z50 monkey bikes.
“There wasn’t a lot of them made and that’s why they’re irreplaceable.”
Matheson said they were only built by Honda for two years in the 1960s and are quite unique. To add insult to injury, some had just been restored with new engines.
“There’s very few that ever come up for sale and they’re kind of a symbol of the Shrine — not only here in Alberta, but in various other locations in the (United) States — because you often see pictures of big Shriners riding little bikes, entertaining the kids and having fun.”
So why the little bikes?
“There’s two reasons: one is to entertain the kids who are watching the parades. The more important reason is to expose the public to the Shrine and what we do, which is to the pediatric care of children in northern Alberta.”
The Motor Corps is a unit of the Al Shamal Shrine, a fraternal Freemason organization that’s part of Shriners International. There are nearly 200 temples (chapters) in several countries and thousands of clubs around the world.
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In Edmonton, the Masons at the Al Shamal Shriners are dedicated to philanthropy, specifically causes that help children with bone disabilities or burns.
Matheson said the brotherhood works to support some kids charities in northern Alberta and several children’s hospitals across North America, such as the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Montreal.
“Some of the money we raise goes to transporting children from northern Alberta to either the Montreal hospital or appropriate ones down in the U.S., because the Shrine operates 21 hospitals for specialized pediatric care.”
Matheson said the Motor Corps and other Shriners units visit communities across Alberta, exposing people to their philanthropy efforts and fundraising for hospitals.
They had planned to attend a parade in Redwater this weekend, but don’t have enough bikes after the recent theft.
Now, Matheson said money that would have gone towards charitable work will instead be spent fixing up some older bikes so they can get back on the road next summer — but it won’t come cheap.
“They can’t be replaced. They’re an antique bike, very unique, so there’s just no replacing them. Some of the older bikes, it’s going to cost probably $1,800 to $2,000 a bike to bring it up to roadworthy condition.”
It’s estimated it will cost more than $12,000 to fix up older bikes, “which means if we’re spending money on that, we’re not spending it on a lot of the charities and so forth we donate to through the years.
“So it’s money that’s going from charity to having to maintain the bikes.”
Matheson said members will pay for the loss out of their own pockets.
“It’s not fair for the public to have to pay for our bikes, if you will. And anything we would collect for that would be against something that doesn’t go to a proper charity.”
Matheson said the theft was reported to the Edmonton Police Service, but so far there’s been no word on where they went. Ideally, the organization would just like the unique motorcycles returned.
“We would be happy to take them, no questions asked,” he said.
“They’re not replaceable and we would just love to get them back.”
If anyone does see any vintage Honda Z50 minibikes or their parts being listed for sale, or spots someone riding one, Matheson asked them to let either EPS or the Al Shamal Shrine know.