Stephen Betters might come across as a gruff biker guy with his black-and-red flannel, his gold earring and the military patches on his leather jacket.

The hot pink beard, however, gives away his softer side.

Betters, 62, volunteers with childhood cancer patients at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, visiting kids in treatment a couple times a week and often participating in fundraising events for the hospital.

“I can put smiles on their faces,” Betters said.

It all started with a bet.

In January 2014, the New England Patriots were set to play the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship. Betters, who lives in Standish, pledged his buddies in the Bangor chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association he would dye his hair and beard if the Patriots lost. The Broncos won, 26-16, and Betters had to buy a tube of hot pink hair color.

“My dad used to say, ‘Turn lemons into lemonade,'” Betters said.

Betters took his dad’s advice to heart. He posed for a photo with his new hairdo, and made a sign promising to donate $1,000 to Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital if his picture got 1,000 likes on Facebook. He didn’t have a personal connection to the hospital, but liked its cause. Friends helped Betters launch a Facebook page called “Lemonade for Kids” and a website under lemonadeforkids.com. He was interviewed by local and national news organizations. He hit thousands of likes within days, and his fundraiser inspired others to donate to the hospital, too.

“I knew about social media, but I was blown away,” Betters said. “It humbles me.”

Betters cut his check to the hospital, but his advocacy didn’t end there.

The development team for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital said Betters routinely supports fundraising campaigns and other projects, such as the campaign to make a specialty license plate to benefit the children’s hospital. They estimated his efforts have brought tens of thousands of dollars to the hospital.

“When I first met Steve, we all assumed this would be a temporary project until he had honored his bet,” said Matt Parks, director of philanthropy. “But I asked him, when is he going to retire his dye? He said, ‘Why would I stop when I’m making a difference?’ ”

They said Betters also forms special relationships with patients and their families.

“He’s not afraid to be silly with the kids,” said Kate Richardson, philanthropy manager. “That goes a really long way.”

Betters spent 20 years in the U.S. Army and then 23 years working for the U.S. Postal Service. He retired this year and now spends even more time working on Lemonade for Kids. The business makes T-shirts, bracelets, hats, pillowcases and other gifts for the kids. He uses the Facebook page to share inspirational stories, GoFundMe pages and updates on kids in the hospital. He writes personal notes to young patients and brings them “Junior Lemonader” certificates. He gets his hair treatment at a Portland salon, the same one his wife frequents.

Betters insisted he benefits from his experience as much or more than the kids do.

“They teach me what it means to have courage and resilience,” he said. “They’ve got all these machines hooked up to ’em. They’ve got all these medicines. And they still manage to put a smile on my face.”

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