By Ted Waddell
WURTSBORO December 7, 2001 The sight of almost 100 leather bikers and their sparkling steeds of steel in front of OTooles Harley-Davidson created quite a stir on Wurtsboros otherwise sleepy Sullivan Street, as they geared up for Sundays 16th annual HOG (Harley Owners Group) Toy Run.
Before riders lit the fire in their American icons of individualism, they engaged in some rather ribald conversation, some of which focused on the merits of the mighty Harley-Davidson versus lesser bikes.
As the run got underway, the sound of rolling thunder shattered the otherwise quiet morning. Panheads, Shovel Heads, Softails and Hardtails, and an occasional machine assembled from parts of various vintages headed off to the Rock Hill Firehouse where Santa Claus (aka Jerry Joly of Middletown) handed out toys to deserving tots.
Santa rides a Shovel Head from a bunch of years, 1962-86.
I come here every year and do my thing for the kids, he said. I get to see a lot of real happy faces, and that makes it all worth it.
Sixteen years ago, the annual Wurtsboro HOG Toy Run was initiated by John and Joan OToole as a benefit for Sullivan County Head Start. The OTooles have operated the local Harley-Davidson dealership for 29 years.
This years edition of the toy run attracted riders from three clubs: the Wurtsboro HOGs Chapter, ABATE (an organization that promotes motorcycling) and the Steel Talons.
All the bikers get together to help some kids who otherwise might not have a very merry Christmas, said John OToole. Its our way of giving back a little bit to the community. . . . The bikers give so much year after year. They spread great joy and pride during the Christmas season.
Its great to see the smiles on the faces of the kids when Santa Claus hands out the gifts, and it gives the bikers a warm feeling, he added.
Bob Carieri is director of the Wurtsboro HOGs. Hes been riding Harleys for the past 12 years, and his current steed is a 2001 Road King.
The toy run gives children an opportunity to feel the spirit of Christmas, he said. Its our way of sharing in the spirit of the holiday. We love doing it for the kids.
As for himself, Carieri said hes hoping to find a 2003 Harley-Davidson Anniversary model under his Christmas tree a couple of years down the road.
Before the run kicked off, Paul Lascola of Middletown and John The Plumber Mosiurchak of Ellenville mugged for the camera and exchanged some endearing comments, much to the delight of their comrades.
At the firehouse, Lascola talked about why he joined the annual toy run.
Its just a love for the kids, he said. I come from a big, needy family on the other side of the tracks, so I know how it is on the other side. . . . We ride to take care of the kids. Thats what its all about.
The club is all about giving back to the community, added Lascola.
He is a member of the Steel Talons and rides a 2001 Heritage Softail.
Jason Mathis and Jennifer Devine of Bloomingburg arrived on his 1999 1200 c.c. Sportster.
We ride to make sure we can give the kids a little something that everybody else takes for granted, said Mathis. Seeing the smiles on their faces makes it all worth it.
Its all for the children, added Devine.
Speaking of kids, one-year-old Joey McAboy didnt have a whole lot to say, as he was too busy feeding chocolate chip cookies to his proud father, Jeff McAboy of Rock Tavern. The father/son duo was dressed in matching black leather motocycle jackets featuring the distinctive Harley-Davidson logo.
McAboy has been participating in toy runs since he was a 16-year-old living in Brooklyn. This was his ninth season riding to help bring presents to local kids.
This is what Christmas is all about, said the owner of a 2001 Road King.
Lisa Phillips of Loch Sheldrake already had a Christmas tree set up but no presents under it for her three daughters, four-year-old twins Tiara and Theiana Glover, and Myisha Phillips, 9.
But on Saturday, that all changed, as her kids got presents thanks to a bunch of bikers and their ladies, who think its a lot better to give than receive.
We came out to celebrate, and they wanted to see Santa Claus and tell him what they wanted for Christmas, said Lisa Phillips.
Now theyre going to enjoy some presents under our tree, she added. The first thing they said to me was, Mom, now weve got something to put under the tree!