The Foundation's History

The Foundation's History

On September 7, 2000, a new non-profit educational foundation named the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Foundation was approved as a tax-exempt organization by the Internal Revenue Service. This is the story of the vision, dedication, and hard work that created this organization.

After a meeting of BMW club presidents at the International Rally in Fredericksburg, Texas, in 1997, BMW MOA Ambassador Clark Luster approached BMW MOA President Jeff Dean about the possibility of creating a tax-exempt foundation for motorcycle enthusiasts. Luster, who was the executive director for Presley Ridge Schools, a non-profit foundation for underprivileged children, imagined that motorcyclists might appreciate the opportunity to make tax-deductible gifts to an organization dedicated to the advancement of safety and education in motorcycling. Dean agreed.

During the following winter, Luster presented the idea to Jeff Dunkle, the treasurer of the BMW MOA. Dunkle arranged for Luster to get a slot on the agenda of the next MOA board of directors meeting, which was scheduled to meet at the American Motorcyclist Association headquarters in Westerville, Ohio, in April, 1998.

Luster outlined his concept to the MOA board, and asked for permission to form a task force to explore the feasibility of the creation of a new foundation. The MOA board unanimously approved the creation of a task force, and Luster returned home to Pittsburgh, realizing he had created a world of work for himself and other supporters of the concept. His next step was to prepare a presentation for the 1998 MOA International Rally in Missoula, Montana, which resulted in MOA President Dean appointing a feasibility task force consisting of himself, Luster, D.J. Douglas, Mike White, Jeff Dunkle, Charles Peters, and Roger Wiles. Luster reported the formation of the task force at the annual Ambassador dinner, receiving an enthusiastic reaction.

Luster hosted the first meeting of the task force in the conference room of Pressley Ridge Schools in Pittsburgh on April 20, 1998. With the assistance of attorney Carolyn Duronio, the group spent a day brainstorming and planning how to launch the new foundation. The following goals were established:

  • Create a national educational facility including a library, archives, museum, and hall of fame.
  • Provide training in riding skills, safety and leadership.
  • Promote programs for first-time riders with an emphasis on youth, women, and minorities.
  • Establish a clearinghouse for the redistribution of motorcycles, equipment, and supplies.
  • Respond positively to new and creative initiatives from the members.

Another Pittsburgh BMW rider, David Celento, learned about the project and became enthusiastically involved. Celento, and his wife Rebecca Henn, both of whom are architects, contributed many hours to the development of the concept of a national headquarters that could serve enthusiasts.This concept envisioned a 200 acre site in scenic riding country, featuring meeting space, educational facilities, motorcycle maintenance bays, camping, and lodging facilities. This component was thought to be a long term project that would be implemented in phases.

Luster reported the proposals of the task force to the BMW MOA Board of Directors at a meeting in Tucson in January 1999. In response, the board unanimously approved a motion by Director Ted Verrill to create a tax-exempt foundation. An executive committee was formed consisting of Luster, president; Wiles, secretary; D.J. Douglas, treasurer; and Peters, Dean, Sue Rihn-Manke, Court Fisher, and Jeff Melcher as trustees.

The foundation board had hoped to officially launch the project at the 1999 MOA International Rally at Rheinbeck, New York. Unfortunately, this did not happen because working out a licensing agreement with the BMW MOA (a requirement of BMW North America to use the BMW name) was not as simple as anticipated. In the meantime, Luster got the nameless foundation incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania, and settled for a second annual progress report and informal briefing – rather than an official launch — at Rheinbeck.

At the Rheinbeck Rally, The Chain Gang raised $2,500 for the foundation with a 50/50 raffle, and the Kansas City BMW Club donated $1,000, which helped offset legal expenses that had been incurred to create the foundation.
In January 2000, the necessary licensing agreement was finalized and approved by the BMW MOA Board of Directors during a special telephone conference. At this time the BMW MOA board had set out to restructure the administrative functions of the organization, hiring former AMA president Ed Youngblood as an organizational consultant. Youngblood, who had set up the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation on behalf of the AMA during the 1980s, was instructed by the BMW MOA directors to provide assistance to help the BMW MOA Foundation trustees move the project forward as quickly as possible. In February, 2000, Youngblood advised Luster in finalizing the Bylaws for the BMW MOA Foundation, and papers were filed by attorney Duronio with the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status.

In April 2000, the process of selecting a full board of 100 trustees for the Foundation was put in place. By July 2000, every piece for the creation of the BMW MOA Foundation was in place except final approval for tax-exempt status by the IRS. Bylaws were approved, Pennsylvania incorporation was completed, a name had been chosen and properly licensed by the BMW MOA, and a board of trustees was in place.

Sixty-six trustees held their first meeting on July 12, 2000, at the MOA International Rally at Midland, Michigan. During a productive two-hour meeting, committees were created, committee chairs selected and a new executive board created consisting of Luster, Wiles, Rihn-Manke, Sandy Cohen, Deb Lower, and Jim Shaw. Shortly thereafter, on September 7, 2000, the BMW MOA Foundation received its tax-exempt approval from the IRS!

Since that time, and through the efforts of many volunteers, and after many false starts and set backs, the Foundation has worked hand-in-hand with the Board of the BMW MOA to evolve into what is now the fundraising arm of the MOA. The Foundation is now responsible for generating the money used to pay for the courses and educational opportunities offered by the MOA’s Rider Performance University (RPU). In addition, the Foundation purchase a SmartTrainer riding simulator/trainer developed by the MSF and Honda. The SmartTrainer is offered at major rallies and local club events, and has proven to be a very popular means of reminding all participants that you can always learn to be a better, and safer, rider.

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