On Sunday, thousands of BMXers across Australia are scheduled to participate in nine simultaneous jam sessions to raise money for victims of this year's historic flooding that has devastated much of the eastern side of the continent.
The floods, which began in January and hit the Brisbane area in southern Queensland particularly hard, were exacerbated last week by a massive cyclone, Yasi, which pummeled northern Queensland with estimated 190-mph winds and rain. Although the weather has virtually wiped out the region's outdoor riding season, it also spurred coast-to-coast riding sessions on Feb. 20.
"This sort of thing has never really happened before," event organizer Shaun Jarvis said by phone from Perth.
Jarvis was talking about the jam sessions, but he could have been talking about the floods' effect on his nation's way of life. "An area almost twice the size of Texas has been affected by the floods," he explained. During a flash flood in the city of Toowoomba, six inches of rain fell in 30 minutes, sending a 20-foot wall of water east toward Queensland's capital, Brisbane. "Within five minutes, cars were floating down the street," Jarvis said.
In another case, "one person was found 80 kilometers from where they were last seen," Jarvis said. "Homes were floating away with people still inside, screaming for help."
Instead of seeing these things firsthand, Jarvis -- a well-known BMXer and event promoter with Freestyle Now -- watched them on television from his home in Perth, on the other side of the continent. He had ridden for years in Brisbane and knew a lot of the people whose lives were being uprooted. "To know what this water was doing, it hit home," he said. "What do you do? Sit here and do nothing, or help?"
Jarvis had heard of Australians donating $10 dollars apiece toward the Premier's Disaster's Relief Appeal, a government-established fund in Queensland. "And I thought, if I can get 3,000 or 5,000 people to donate 10 bucks, that's even better. So I said, let's have a jam. But if we just had a jam in Perth, that's not going to do much good. Why not have a jam for all of Australia? So I sent an e-mail to a lot of contacts I know, and they were all for it."
One organizer had already scheduled a fundraiser for a different date, but he changed its date to coincide with the coordinated effort on Feb. 20. Another of the sessions will feature nine bands and is expected to include more than 1,000 riders.
All of the sessions require participants to pay a dollar or two to ride; they'll also include auctions and raffles with products and services donated by businesses and brands. For example, Jarvis said, a local BMXer from outside Brisbane works as a heavy equipment operator and spent six days scooping up the ravished contents of people's homes and loading them into trucks to be hauled away. For the jams, he's donated five hours of work to be raffled off in Queensland.
"That will be a treat for riders wanting to build dirt jumps," Jarvis said.
For more information or to contribute, check out bmxforfloods.info