Driven to ride, driven to help

Howard Neighbors


July 14, 2006|By JANET GILBERT

Motorcycles are about speed. Scooters are about style," said Mark Bobotek of Ellicott City. A quick cruise on the Internet proves Bobotek's statement true; scooter enthusiasts seem to have an accelerated sense of style - check out the Web site of the Baltimore Bombshells scooter club ( or try any one of the links it provides.

Dorothy, you're not in an SUV anymore.

Bobotek, 47, has definitely ramped up his scootering style this summer, embarking on a coast-to-coast-and-back scooter ride to benefit Canine Partners for Life, a nationwide nonprofit organization that trains service dogs and places them with people who have mobility impairments and seizure disorders. He motors out today on his red 2006 Vespa GTS250ie for the first leg of his trip, from Miami to Tampa.

"Vespa means `wasp' in Italian," said Bobotek. "It's named for the buzzing sound the engine makes." Vespa scooters have been manufactured since 1946 by the Italian firm Piaggio & C, s.p.a. According to the Piaggio Web site, the scooters were designed with the help of the Italian aeronautical designer credited with the invention of the modern helicopter.

Bobotek's adventure down scenic highways combines his passion for scootering and helping people.

Bobotek has a personal interest in supporting Canine Partners for Life because his twin 15-year-old nephews have cerebral palsy, and service dogs from CPL have had a tremendous impact on their quality of life.

"The dogs can carry backpacks, pick up pencils and open doors," said Bobotek. According to the CPL Web site (, service dogs can pay cashiers, pull recycling bins out to the curb, open refrigerator doors and retrieve items, and assist with dressing and undressing. Specialized seizure dogs can alert their human partners that they are within an hour or two of a seizure.

Tomorrow, Bobotek will go from Tampa to Atlanta. On Sunday, he is scheduled to ride from Atlanta to Oxford, Miss.

"This is the part of the trip that is likely to be the most challenging," Bobotek said. "I'm solo; it's going to be hot, and then there could be thunderstorms. I'm really looking forward to the Western mountain riding."

On Monday, he will head to Oklahoma City. Next, it is on to Taos, N.M. By Wednesday, he should be in Denver. Bobotek's family plans to fly out and join him Thursday for the Cheyenne, Wyo., Frontier Days, which begin July 21.

An attorney with his own business, Bobotek will fly back and attend to business before he returns for the Amerivespa 2006 scooter rally July 27-30 in Denver.

From there, he will head to Seattle, arriving on or about Aug. 5, and he will park his scooter with friends. Then, he returns home for a four-week break.

On Sept. 8, Bobotek will fly to Portland and ride to the Oregon Coast on Sept. 9. Bobotek will join about 30 other scooterists Sept. 10 for what he describes as a "cannonball" sprint to the New Jersey shore in nine days, referencing the 1981 film The Cannonball Run. It is a 3,293-mile trip.

"Even if someone pledges a penny a mile for the cannonball run - that's around $32, $33 toward a service dog," said Bobotek. To date, Bobotek has raised a little over $1,000. On many levels, he has a long road ahead. He hopes to present a check to the Canine Partners for Life organization in Cochranville, Pa., on the final leg home.

"A single service dog costs $20,000 to train," said Darlene Sullivan, founder and executive director of Canine Partners for Life. Owners are asked to contribute $1,000, but no owner is turned away if financially unable to contribute. CPL then provides a lifetime of support to that dog-person team, with phone calls, refresher courses and recertification checkups.

"The first year, the puppies learn all their basic obedience skills and socialization in volunteer homes, or through our prison puppy program," she said. The Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup participates in CPL's puppy program.

After one year, the puppies are returned to Cochranville for another year's rigorous training by an instructor. At the end of this time, the selected owners/partners come to Cochranville for three weeks of intensive training with their dogs, including frequent field trips in public.

Sullivan says that in the 18 years she has been with CPL, she has seen dogs change lives and save people's lives. "I have seen people who used to sit at home suddenly go out and go to college and get jobs."

"We're funded 10 percent by donations, so it's really something when people take it upon themselves to do something like this," she added.

Bobotek is looking forward to his unconventional cross-country ride, even in these dog days of summer.

"Scooter people tend to be a little countercultural," he said, "people who don't feel they fit in with the system."

The charitable organization he has designated for his ride aims to help a group of people that may, at times, feel exactly the same way.

If you are interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to Canine Partners for Life in support of Mark Bobotek's cross-country scooter ride, mail a check made out to Canine Partner for Life to the Law Offices of H. Mark Bobotek, 10320 Little Patuxent Parkway, #1200, Columbia 21044, or mail it to Canine Partners for Life, PO Box 170, Cochranville, Pa. 19330-0170 and write "Bobo" on the memo line.


Is someone in your neighborhood worth writing about? Is there an event that everyone in Howard County should be aware of?

If there is, Janet Gilbert, our neighbors reporter, wants to know about it. Janet brings a wealth of writing experience and knowledge of Howard County to her position.

E-mail Janet at, or call 410-313-8276.

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