The Dawson Strong Ride route.

The Dawson Strong Ride route.

Dennis VanPortfliet knows just how special his son, Dawson, was to the world.

“Dawson was a wonderful kid,” explained Dennis. “His laugh was completely contagious, his heart was so, so big. He loved music of all types and he loved art.

“He was a beautiful soul.”

When Dawson died unexpectedly in June 2015, many were left trying to make sense of the loss. For the VanPortfliet family, their sense came in helping others – specifically the families whose children are cared for at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

While the VanPortfliets were lucky to have family and friends bring them what they needed in the days before Dawson’s death, others aren’t so lucky – needing everything from food to clothes to hotel rooms.

Which is why the Dawson Strong Ride enters its fifth iteration this coming Saturday, Aug. 1. Originally postponed from the third week of June due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will raise money for the HCMC Extraordinary Kids fund, which  helps provide a “child and family-centered environment,” according to HCMC.

All the proceeds from the ride – which includes the entry fee of $30 for the five-stop event – the dinner, after party and a silent auction – go to the fund.

Dennis explained that during his family’s stay in Minneapolis, he saw many families that didn’t have access to the same support network they did.

“That’s why we do what we can do,” he explained. “That’s where this money goes. It’s to provide money for those families.”

In terms of a fundraiser choice, though, Dennis didn’t need to look far.

“Motorcycle riders are the most giving people I’ve ever met,” he explained. “My son loved motorcycles, I ride motorcycles.”

The event starts at The Landing in Aitkin, then to Savanna Portage Inc. in Floodwood. From there, the ride will travel to the 3rd Place Bar in Cloquet and then to the Village Pump Saloon in Tamarack.

The ride will then return to Aitkin and finish at Block North Brew Pub, which will also host the silent auction.

Registration, which is $30 for a bike or vehicle, begins at 9 a.m., with kickstands up at 11 a.m. Dennis said the ride would not exist without the support of the Aitkin community.

“The community of Aitkin is so loving and caring and the true meaning of, ‘it takes a community to raise a child,’” he explained. “I am forever indebted to this community I call family and would not have it any other way.

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