Woodstock, Ill., May 18 — Summertime is finally coming, and with the change in season comes the first large run of the year—the 27th annual Little Angels Pledge Run. The run is held at the Woodstock Harley-Davidson store and is sponsored primarily by the Elgin Area Organization of Motorcycle Riders.
The run has an interesting story. In 1988 the Elgin H.O.G. chapter was looking for an event for a charity group to provide their riders with a fun time and also donate to a good cause. Elgin H.O.G. had approached several groups with the idea and was flatly turned down because, at that time, nobody wanted to be associated with a “biker”’ group. The H.O.G. chapter approached Little Angels, and their director, Pat Wasmond, was more than happy to accept the bikers’ offer and eventually the ride became more important to Little Angels. A few years into the program, Fishers Harley, the Elgin sponsor, was sold and the new owners moved the operation to St. Charles, Illinois. Some problems developed and eventually the Elgin chapter changed its name to the Elgin Area Organization of Motorcycle Riders and lined up with Woodstock Harley-Davidson for help, and things have been running smoothly ever since.
Woodstock Harley has a great setup for this type of event. It is basically a standard dealership with about 200 bikes on display, a large service department and clothing area, and lots of friendly employees. They also have a ton of room outside with a large parking area that can hold about 1,500 or 2,000 bikes on one side of the store, and on the other side is another large area that fits all the vendors, partying crowd, stage, food and drink area, as well as registration for the event.
Weather reports for the day were great with sunny skies and no rain in sight. The crowd started lining up at around 8:00 a.m. and I thought it would be another large crowd. One of the volunteers had told me there were 1,100 signups before the event, and I was told after the ride an additional 500 had joined the crowd for a total of approximately 1,600 riders. This is always one of the best-organized rides of the year and a good way to start the summer. The lot filled up quickly, and lined up at the front of the ride were the McHenry County Road Pirates (which is one of my favorite bike club names). They left a little early to get to their assigned areas, directing the group on the way at each area that required a turn or change in direction. A few minutes later when they were in position, two motorcycle officers from McHenry County led the group out, followed by lots of bikes.
The city seems to be very receptive to the ride every year and the traffic makes way for the riders. Because of the location of Woodstock Harley as a Chicago suburban area, each year’s ride generally heads south, west or north, but not east because of heavy traffic in that direction. This year the ride headed west toward Marengo, a town of about 7,000 that was founded in 1835 and has a few small manufacturing locations, then north to Roscoe, the tiny village that is well known as the hometown of Nascar driver Danica Patrick, though she never shows up on our ride, and Nicole Manske Briscoe, a Miss Illinois pageant winner and a reporter on the Speed Channel, who also was not there. The route was well laid out, passing the plowed fields that will be soon sprouting ears of corn. Then it was time to head east, which brought us to more farm fields and eventually back to Woodstock Harley where it was time for lunch.
The volunteer crew was ready for us; bike parking was easy and a short walk down the hill on the side of the store to the open area and we were quickly in line for brats, burgers, chips and pop. Beer was also available if you wanted it. Then it was time to browse the various vendor booths, which were mostly area nonprofits or various bike groups plugging upcoming events, or you could just relax in one of the many chairs around the venue and listen to the Kick Back City band. Before the band started, a girl by the name of Jen Goles sang the national anthem that had the crowd on their feet. I don’t know who she is, but if the Cubs, Sox, Bulls or Blackhawks are looking for a new singer, they should look this girl up.
At about 3:00 p.m. various prizes were given away including the award for the largest volunteer organization in attendance, which went to the Road Pirates, and the oldest rider there, Bill Walters, who was born in 1932. The Highest Pledges honor was awarded to Cathy Dare with $3,315, beating her third-place husband by $598. One of the more interesting raffle prizes was a $2,500 diamond necklace won by Arnie Horwich, one of the owners of Woodstock Harley, who ended up giving the item to some unknown woman standing near him who had mentioned she had entered the drawing and hoped to win. (A very nice gesture.) The big winner of the day, along with the kids from Little Angels, was Michael Kenyon Jr. who won the raffle for the 2014 Harley Ultra Classic.
The Pledge Run raised $152,000 for the Little Angels organization, with the proceeds going to the Little Angels Center for Exceptional Care, a residential home that serves children and young adults with severe disabilities and complex medical needs. And thanks to past Pledge Runs, the Cathy Freeman Center for Developmental Training has been built. Once again, it was a great ride with a great group for a great cause.
(This article A Rolling Lifeline was published in the July 2014 issue of Thunder Press, North edition.)