The power of Peter
Fundraiser benefits firefighters and veterans
Laconia, N.H., June 12—It was early Saturday morning at Weirs Beach, and the Laconia Fire Department had just hoisted a giant American flag to the top of their 100-foot ladder truck over Weirs Boulevard, and directly in front of the NASWA, one of the premier resorts in the Laconia area. The flag signaled riders that this was the signup location for the 4th annual Peter Makris Memorial Run, which is also the kickoff event for Laconia Motorcycle Week.
Peter Makris, a much-loved Laconia icon and an avid biker and boater, was owner of the family-run NASWA Resort for many years. He had been a police officer in Boston, Massachusetts; and after moving to New Hampshire he became a Belknap County attorney and Laconia city counselor. Peter had a huge impact on the community, and due to his generosity, the Laconia Fire Department Life Saving Fund and Water Rescue Unit were established. In 2004, after firefighter and rescue diver Mark Miller drowned in a rescue training accident at Weirs Beach just down the road from the NASWA, Peter donated $5,000 and urged other local businesses to kick in until there were enough funds to allow LFD Chief Ken Erickson to purchase a boat and outfit it for water rescue. And that was only the start.
When Peter passed away in early 2007 at the age of 82, family friend Marilyn DeMartini and Peter’s daughter Cynthia decided to expand the concept and honor his memory with a combined boater and biker run. The first-ever Peter Makris Memorial Bike and Boat Run took place the first Saturday of Laconia Motorcycle Week that same year, and has continued every year since.
This year, though, a new charity was included in the fundraising efforts. Peter was a U.S. Marine who served in World War II, and a member of the Leathernecks M.C. His family thought it appropriate to donate some of the money raised to the Veterans Count program of Easter Seals New Hampshire. The Veterans Count mission is to provide emergency assistance to U.S. veterans and service personnel that are leaving for military service, already deployed, or have returned home. Money raised supplements funding provided by the Department of Defense and helps allow veterans and their families to maintain their quality of life.
At 9:00 a.m., those who hadn’t pre-registered were able to do so at a table set up on the NASWA beach. For $50 ($40 if paid in advance), each of us registrants received a T-shirt and enjoyed a bountiful breakfast buffet to fortify ourselves for the upcoming ride. We also received a drink chip (Cynthia wanted everyone to “have a drink on my dad”) and ticket for a luncheon after the ride. For $60, riders got VIP parking and the opportunity to ride at the front of the pack (or, if on a boat, VIP dock space at the NASWA beach).
Just before we were scheduled to leave, it started to rain, but I didn’t see a single person back out of the ride. This is Laconia, after all, and bikers who live here as well as those who visit are a hardy bunch. When sign-up and breakfast was over, we headed to the parking lot across the street where we were treated to the dulcet baritone of Sgt. Dan Clark, retired New Hampshire State Police and Marine veteran. He moved everyone to tears with his heartfelt rendition of Amazing Grace, accompanied by the New Hampshire Fire Brigade Bagpipers, and paid tribute to all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces by singing their anthems, and closed the program with the Star Spangled Banner.
Dave Perewitz, who has been a good friend to the Makris family for many years, served as the ride’s grand marshal, with Cynthia riding on the back of his bike. Peter’s wife Hope rode in an antique fire truck that formed part of the procession. The drizzling of rain continued as Father Mark gave a group blessing to all riders, and we were given the signal to mount our bikes. Just before 11:30, the riders streamed out of the parking lot. The ride route took us around Lake Winnipesaukee, and was touted as a “feet up” ride, meaning that our feet wouldn’t hit the ground until we returned to the NASWA. It was fully escorted by the New Hampshire State Police, who also blocked every intersection for the entire 75 miles around the lake. Partway through the ride, the rain stopped, allowing us to more fully take in the gorgeous scenery along the shoreline and enjoy passing through the quaint resort towns of Meredith, Moultonborough, Tuftonboro, Wolfeboro and Alton Bay.
When we got back to the NASWA several hours later, the Fusion Sales Group crew had cleared away the breakfast remains at the NAZBar Beach Bar, and replaced it with a gourmet luncheon buffet which we immediately attacked with gusto (it was after 2:00 by then!). Fusion provides food service for the NASWA, and the company generously donated the breakfast and lunch so that every penny taken in could be donated to the intended recipients.
The Dan Lawson band kept everyone’s energy up, as did the lively bar and wait staff. Ride sponsors, local businesses and individuals donated many items to raffle off and for the silent auction. The party continued well into the afternoon with many staying through the evening hours. We were being fed, entertained and treated like royalty, so why go anywhere else? Plus, it gave me a chance to meet some of the firefighters and veterans who came out for the ride. It was then that I learned what Peter Makris truly meant to the community. I had a chance to meet Fire Chief Ken Erickson who told me, “Peter was a great friend of mine when I first came up here nine years ago. When firefighter Mark Miller died in 2004, Peter said, ‘So let’s get Mark’s boat in service,’ and six months later we put the Mark E. Miller in the lake. The entire Water Rescue operation—ice, swiftwater, boats—is all funded through the Peter Makris Run. This year there were over 220 motorcycles, but it was still a fantastic turnout considering it was raining.”
Cynthia Makris said with a smile, “We’re grateful for all our sponsors who represent $13,000 in sponsorship. We had 280 bikers and raised $30,000 so we’re really proud of that. And I’m proud of everyone who came out in my dad’s memory.”
To make a contribution to the Peter Makris Memorial Fund, go to www.naswa.com or call 603.366.4341. See you next year at the 5th annual Peter Makris Memorial Run, June 11!