Inside the gazebo at La Cañada Flintridge’s Memorial Park on Monday, lawyer Bob Burlison was treated like a soldier returning home after a long deployment.
Community members wore matching T-shirts, “Welcome Back” banners and balloons decorated the area, and a small crowd formed. There were, however, two sizable objects hinting that this was a different kind of celebration: black BMW motorcycles; one sitting in the grass, one strapped to a truck bed.
On Memorial Day, Burlison left the city on a three-month trip around the country. As a member of the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada-AM, a local chapter of an international organization that supports children and poor communities, he aimed to visit Kiwanis club members from every state — either virtually or in person.
Along the way, he promoted his cause: defeating maternal and neonatal tetanus, which kills thousands of children and mothers in developing countries.
Many across the nation opened up their homes to Burlison. He received free lodging during 72 nights of his 96-day trip.
“There’s one thing we really found in this trip and that is that service to our fellow people is very, very alive and active throughout the United States,” he said on Monday. “I really felt that the people we met throughout the country were heroes.”
Burlison traveled more than 13,500 miles, a total he hopes will break the current Guinness World Record for a continuous motorcycle trip in one country.
He returned home last week; a Glendale Kiwanis Club meeting was his final stop. But the Memorial Park celebration on Labor Day marked his official homecoming.
Members of the Kiwanis Club, friends and family gathered to support him. Mayor Laura Olhasso presented Burlison with a certificate.
“What an amazing journey for such an amazing cause,” she said.
“We, as a community, are thrilled that La Cañada Flintridge is on the map for something other than a disaster,” she added, jokingly.
David Granish, a Kiwanis Club member, said he and several others spent the last several months mapping and coordinating the ambitious trip, which Burlison proposed to them a year ago. “We had a blast during the summer,” Granish said.
Burlison sold raffle tickets around the country to raise money for the Eliminate Project, netting $25,000. A portion of the funds will be used to pay for travel expenses.
Local Kiwanis club member Yvonne Dickie, who was not present during Monday’s event, won the raffle drawing. Dickie will be able to choose either a BMW motorcycle, allowing her to go on a ride of her own, or its value in cash — $10,000.