Bikers' toy ride a treat for kids

Drive: Motorcyclists deliver toys and excitement to children at Kennedy Krieger Institute.

October 25, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Joe Knott, Elements of Christmas and Halloween merged yesterday at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Instead of Santa Claus, hundreds of motorcyclists clad in black leather chaps and helmets thundered up the drive of the institute's Greenspring campus yesterday to deliver holiday toys to children there.

Several firefighters, a couple of dinosaurs, a pair of glam rockers and Superman - children in their Halloween costumes-met the bikers.

Riders on more than 150 motorcycles set off on a chilly, rainy morning from the Harley-Davidson store on Pulaski Highway in Rossville as part of the sixth annual Motorcycle Toy Ride.

Joe Knott of Baltimore took the trip on the Beltway and the Jones Falls Expressway with a 4-foot-tall white bear strapped onto his bike like a passenger.

"We're always really proud of the bike community because they always love kids," he said.

April Darchicourt of Dundalk, one of the ride's organizers, led the pack and arrived just before 11 a.m. She pointed to her T-shirt, which had a picture of her daughter Kara.

"This is why I do it," she said.

Kara, who suffered from cerebral palsy, was a patient at Kennedy Krieger, which treats children with brain injuries or disorders of the brain. The 4-year-old died of a seizure in 1999.

"Kennedy was excellent with us," Darchicourt said Friday. "They didn't treat us like an assembly line.

"I was there at Christmas with my daughter, and seeing those children with nothing ... your heart goes out to these kids - it really does," Darchicourt said.

She and her husband, Tom, organized the event with help from their three children. The family moved the event, which was first held in November, to October to avoid colder weather and shorter days so more riders could participate.

Kennedy Krieger embraced the Halloween theme, inviting kids from the Center for Autism and Related Disorders and an inpatient unit to attend in costume. Kids sang "The Wheels of the Motorcycle" - adapted from the "Wheels on the Bus" - yesterday before selecting from the pile of new toys.

"They want to feel like every other kid who dresses up or has a Halloween party," said Allison Nadelhaft, the institute's public relations coordinator.

Riders appreciated the opportunity to give to the children. "You see exactly where the toys are going," said Dundalk resident Don Warren, who wore a Santa hat along with his motorcycle gear.

The event also gave the children at the institute an alternative way to celebrate Halloween.

Jenna Zwiller of Columbia said her 2-year-old son Thomas can't have milk, soy or wheat, which limits the types of candy he can eat.

But "he loves anything with wheels," she said.

Zachary Menser, 5, of Hamilton was dressed for the occasion in a motorcycle helmet and Harley-Davidson leather jacket. Zachary, who is autistic, went straight for a model Harley-Davidson, said his mother, Ann.

"In the last year and a half, he's really come a long way because of Kennedy Krieger," said Zachary's father, Scott.

Darchicourt, 42, said her eyes tear up when she checks her rear-view mirror and sees the line of riders behind her.

"I cry all the way to know that bikers have hearts also," she said.

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