Man uses love of motorcycles, reading to create “Bikers for Books”

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EATON COUNTY, Mich., -- For Badge Velasquez, there's no better feeling than hopping on his motorcycle and hitting the open road.

"The ground is right below you...there's an element of independence, there's an element of freedom... It's a risk, but it's also a bit of a rush," he explained.

The only thing Velasquez loves more than riding, is reading. As the son of migrant farm workers, he told FOX 17 News that his parents learned how to speak English by reading. As a child, he became an avid reader, often diving into the pages of a good book to escape tough times growing up.

"I started reading what I was passionate about. I was reading about motorcycles, anything that had to do with motorcycle history, motorcycle club history."

Five years ago, the two worlds collided, after seeing the struggles of his wife, a 5th grade teacher.

"She was spending a lot of our money to set up her classroom," he explained. "Unfortunately, as time progresses we're losing more and more state funding for those types of things."

Velasquez created the non-profit Bikers for Books to help, recruiting his biker buddies and other motorcycle clubs in the area to raise money for reading materials for schools.

"It's really no secret that bikers have a cliche, they have a stereotype if you will, but to be fair along with that stereotype, bikers are a really giving community," Velasquez said.

The group has raised roughly $50,000 dollars so far, helping around 50 schools, with various motorcycle runs and events. The organization also visits schools, holding assemblies and reading to students.

"It's really eye-opening to see how many kids don't have access to these kinds of books," said Velasquez. "Reading is a sense of empowerment, reading is a sense of individuality... We try to teach the kids that. With an education, with reading, you're pretty much on top of things."

Jason Petersen, a member of Bikers for Books added, "When you have [Badge] sitting in one of the little kids chairs, his knees are under his chin and he starts reading to them, they're just in awe... They realize he's just a good guy with a big heart."

As part of the group's next chapter, Velasquez is working on adding a bookmobile to take out on the road. It's similar to an ice cream truck, but with books inside instead.

By bringing his two loves together, Velasquez is hoping to write a different ending for so many Michigan kids.

"Our greatest payback if you will, would be these kids when they smile," he said. "If you can spark that kid to become a reader,that's bettering our community. Every single part of that is a good situation."

To learn more about Bikers for Books, you can visit the Facebook page, or website.

As our Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Velasquez is receiving a $300 prize.

Know someone who should be featured next month? Nominate them here.

Meet Brett Morton, our June Pay it Forward Person of the Month.

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