Motorcycles on parade

By on October 9, 2011

700 bikers ride for charity
by Lynn Meredith
ELBURN—Motorcyclists with toys strapped to their bikes will be in town Sunday, Oct. 9, as they gather at Knuckleheads Tavern in Elburn for the DuKane Toy and Food Run to benefit local DuPage and Kane County charities. The DuKane chapter of A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education ( ABATE) has been riding for charity for 25 years, making it one of the oldest toy and food run in the country. To date, the chapter has given over $1.5 million in toys and food to over 20 different charities each year.

“I research the organizations that can benefit the most,” said Judy Kaenel, the president of the DuKane ABATE chapter. “This year the Elburn Food Pantry and the Maple Park Food Pantry are having trouble keeping their shelves stocked.”

The list of charities includes a physician from Elgin who treats families with small children for free and gives a Christmas party each year, with never enough toys to go around.

The ride will start and end at the Batavia VFW on Route 25. They will arrive at Knuckleheads starting at 11 a.m. on Sunday, and take off on a cafe ride at 12:30 p.m.

“We’ll go down Route 47 to Main Street, and then head to Batavia,” Event Coordinator Willy Elliott said. “We’ll go through downtown Batavia and cross the river, and then go back to the VFW.”

Emergency vehicles and police departments will be on hand to smooth the way for the 700-plus motorcyclists to get through intersections.

“There will be a wait (for traffic), but it will be quite quick,” Kaenel said. “We’ll be handing out notes to waiting motorists, telling what this ride is all about. The slowest part will be in downtown Batavia.”

Led by Santa Claus as they come into Batavia, the bikers will be joined by several state and local representatives, including Kay Hatcher and Chris Lauzen. The representatives will either join in with their own bikes or hop on the back of one. Kaenel speculated that Hatcher may be given the honor of riding with Santa.

Once back at the VFW, the donated toys will be loaded onto flatbed trucks by helpers dressed as reindeer. What’s unique about this charity drive is that the charities themselves are invited to the event.

“You can see the people (from the charities) come up and get (the donations),” Elliott said.

Kaenel emphasized that anyone can come to the event at the VFW. While riders must register, the public can bring a donation.

“If you want to bring a big box of food, you know you’re helping a family, and it may be a neighbor or family member of your own who needs to use it one day,” Kaenel said. “That’s why it’s important to keep it in DuPage and Kane.”

The bikers and the public will be able to relax to the music of Stoker Red and browse vendors displaying leather goods and clothes, wood carving, tattoo and piercing, food, and other motorcycle centered items.

Riders come from all over northern Illinois, Elliott said. The Latin American Motorcyclists Association and other groups will be coming from Chicago. Others come from Iowa and Indiana.

What started out as a group of guys who wanted to throw a party, the DuKane Toy and Food Run grew to include 6,000 riders at its event in 2001. The purpose of ABATE is to educate the public about motorcycling and traffic safety. They visit over 100 schools and talk to the Drivers’ Education classes. They talk at senior centers to explain how to share the road with motorcycles. They work with the court in cases involving distracted drivers, such as when a driver is texting and kills a motorcyclist. They also want to protect the rights of cyclists to choose whether or not to wear a helmet, and to be able to ride into all towns without restriction.

“We want education, not legislation,” Kaenel said. “People’s ideas of bikers need changing, and we work to change them.”