By Dan Hust
ELDRED September 9, 2003 If you think those revving motors and muddy tracks were evidence of ATV riders taking advantage of Saturdays picture-perfect weather, youd only be partially right.
If youd asked them, they would have said, sure, its a beautiful day to go trouncing around open fields and through cool, dark forests all the while getting covered in mud . . . and occasionally taking a minor spill.
But they would also have said that it was a chance to accomplish two goals: raise awareness of responsible four-wheeling, and raise funds for two ill children.
Actually, thats pretty much what co-organizer Tony Poli said while enjoying a lunch break Saturday at the Eldred Preserve.
A lot of guys wanted to help out. They were eager to do it with us, he said of the 550 people men, women, boys and girls who rode their four-wheelers through 42 miles of Sullivan County wilderness.
Everyones been working with us, he added, from the Gerry Foundation (which provided parking in Bethel) to the Eldred Preserve (which provided lunch) to Hectors Inn in Bethel (which provided breakfast and dinner and served as the starting and ending point of the ride).
Known as a charity poker run, the ride raised at least $6,000 apiece for six-year-old Brianna Worden, whos afflicted with a rare genetic disease that causes nerve tumors, and one-month-old Kylie Lowe, who was born premature, has a hole in her heart and may need surgery. Both are Sullivan County residents.
According to Poli, the ride raked in more than $30,000 total, but a substantial portion of that must also go to the caterers and other expenses. The remaining amount will be donated to the childrens families.
The daylong ride was sponsored and organized by members of the three-year-old Sullivan County ATV Association, which has a motto of helping our communities youth, also organizes non-fundraising rides and seeks to improve the less-than-accurate stereotypes of ATV riders.
We really do want the positive recognition, said Poli, whos been organizing this ride with other association members for five years (two years before the association was even formed).
And on Saturday at the Eldred Preserves private lake nestled deep in the woods off Route 55, it looked like that goal was being achieved from the friendly chatter amongst riders from near and far to the presence of helmets, safety gear and even registration and insurance for each four-wheeler a requirement for this ride.
We saw how professional they were, said Lou Monteleone, the man who oversees the Eldred Preserves outdoor activities and offerings.
This is the first year of involvement for the Preserve, said Monteleone, and they hope to host it again next year.
Everythings been done to perfection, he said of the ATV association. Weve had no problems.
Monteleone explained that the riders prepare, maintain and clean up the trails 15 miles of which are on Eldred Preserve property.
About eight people were cooking food and serving the riders Saturday, who arrived in caravans of 40-80 during the middle of the day.
Its great, said Monteleone while watching the arrivals. And its for a good cause.
I think it is a really nice, worthwhile thing, added Howard Hellman of Rockland County, who was riding with his son, Jason. And I get to bond with my son.
Hellman, who owns a home in Wolf Lake, found out about the event by pure accident, having dialed a wrong number while looking for an ATV repair shop. He just happened to dial the number of an ATV association member who did help him find a shop but also informed him of the ride.
Its great, added Jason. The rides great, the trails are great, the foods been good, and going fast is fun. You get that rush.
And the muds great, too, he said with a grin.
Both Hellmans said they plan on returning to next years event.
But for Dave Rumsey, John Saft and Chris Lorubbio of Pine Bush, this is already their fourth year of riding throughout Sullivan County.
We like the scenery . . . and falling off, quipped Lorubbio.
The trio which rides all over the state, including the Adirondacks credited the ATV association for laying out a challenging but fun route.
And two families get helped out, added Rumsey. Its a real good thing.
George Ries of Queens is also an old hand with the poker run, marking his third time out with the group on Saturday.
For him, the best part is the simple fact that I get to use my quad, which happens to be a Honda 350.
But perhaps the greatest advantage, said ATV association member and team leader Craig Schreiber of Bethel, is the enhancement of four-wheelers reputations.
It gives people a different outlook on ATVs, he said while readying for another ride. The biggest problem is people give us the cold shoulder. But this is for a great cause, and were having a great time.
The eight-year rider, however, also enjoyed the scenery just driving through the woods, seeing the birds and deer, he said.
Believe me, I would do this full-time if I could.
For more information on the Sullivan County ATV Association and future rides, call Poli at 794-2422.