Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell
COMPARING NOTES AT OTooles Harley-Davidson in Wurtsboro on Sunday before hitting the road were, from the left, charitable motorcyclists Art Rosen, vice president of the Catskill Mountain Region Renegade Pigs Motorcycle Club (an international group pf law enforcement bikers); Sandi "H.D. Honey" Collaro, secretary of the Orange County Chapter of ABATE of New York; Lew Morse, a member of the Wurtsboro HOGs; and Joseph Andujar, a NYC cop who served as this ride's tail-end Charlie.
By Ted Waddell
WURTSBORO December 13, 2002 Who said pigs cant fly? Who said HOGs dont run in the wind?
For years, motorcyclists have had a bad image, and here we have a bunch of guys freezing their behinds off to ride so kids will get a Christmas they otherwise probably wouldnt have, said Ralph Gypsy Corwin of Bloomingburg.
And Corwin should know.
Even though he left his 1988 Harley-Davidson Lowrider Custom motorcycle home in the shed this year because of all the snow on the road, hes been part of the annual Christmas Toy Run sponsored by the HOG (Harley Owners Group) Wurtsboro Chapter every year since it was kick started in 1985 by John OToole, owner of OTooles Harley-Davidson dealership.
When not delivering toys to needy kids, Corwin takes photographs at auto racing events such as Kauneonga Speedway, where he is the designated track shooter.
Over the years, hes had a stable of bikes. Starting out with a Ducati, Corwin rode four classic Triumphs before moving up to the first of his trio of Harleys, long considered to be a cherished American icon of independence created in case-hardened steel and polished chrome.
Its all about giving back to the community, added Gypsy, wearing his trademark Stars and Stripes dome wrap.
As the annual toy run geared up, four riders compared notes on how to get to the Sullivan and Woodbourne QWL Catskill Activity Center their destination about 25 chilly miles down the windswept highway.
Art Rosen of Mountaindale, vice president of the Catskill Mountain Region Renegade Pigs Motorcycle Club (an international group of law enforcement bikers); Sandi H.D. Honey Collaro, secretary of the Orange County Chapter of ABATE of New York; Lew Morse of Middletown and a member of the Wurtsboro HOGs; and NYC cop Joseph Andujar of Monroe, with his distinctive Harley-Davidson Police Special.
Im a policeman and a volunteer fireman, said Andujar. Its all about giving back to the community and doing the right thing. Its a warm feeling when youre able to help out somebody who needs a little help. . . . The expression on their faces is the ultimate satisfaction.
As one of the first responders to the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001 on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, Andujar used his 2000 Road King Police Special to clear the way to Ground Zero.
Its got a lot of funny lights, and youre never stuck in traffic, he said of his trip to Lower Manhattan.
Andujar arrived about an hour and a half after the fall of the second tower and wound up spending the next two and a half months at Ground Zero.
It was an indescribable experience, he recalled. The shock, the fear and an overwhelming sense of not being able to do enough. It changed my life.
A little more than a year later, the member of the Wurtsboro HOGs donned protective black leather, cranked up his police special and signed up to ride as the tail gunner for the 17th annual toy ride.
Clearing the way for the ride was Sullivan County Sheriffs Department Deputy Tim Murray. The 11-year veteran led in his patrol car, reportedly declining to ride in the wind.
The youngest rider this year was 9-year-old Katelyn Newman, who rode with her dad, Ken Newman of Middletown, astride his 1998 Harley Ultra Classic, the companys 95th Anniversary Model.
Before the toy run, she helped wrap presents. Following the ride, she helped Head Start volunteers, fellow bikers and Santa (aka Gerald Joly) hand out gifts to lots of happy kids.
I think its exciting that Im going to help Santa give out presents, said the youngster, moments before jumping up on the fathers motorcycle.
Faces in the crowd included Lee Gazelman of Burlington, CT, a locksmith at a federal prison, who rode the furthest distance on his 1998 HD Standard; the Rev. Rich Reinhardt of Pine Bush, who took shelter behind a black leather face mask; Bob Carieri, past president of the Wurtsboro HOGs, who said riders included members of the local HOGs, Renegade Pigs, Steel Talons and a lot of independent riders; and 9-month-old Chrimaz Thompkins of Hurleyville, who was tickled baby-pink with her gift from a fittingly red-suited and white-whiskered Mr. Claus.
John and Joan OToole recalled starting the annual Wurtsboro HOGs Toy Run.
One year, it was so cold only one biker Bob Harris showed up, said Joan OToole. It was a tough year, but he stuck it out.
John OToole said the HOGs do it to help out some of the kids in the county, children who might not be as fortunate as others in the community.
It brings a little Christmas spirit to them, and it makes everybody feel good, he added. Seeing their smiles makes it all worth while.