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NYC H.O.G. Bikers Against Breast Cancer: Fighting a family disease

By Carmen Roberts

NEW YORK, N.Y., JUNE 8—Hundreds of motorcycles roared through the streets of New York City June 8 to raise money for NYC H.O.G. Bikers Against Breast Cancer (BABC). The weather was perfect: warm and sunny. The streets were the best: no traffic. “It was great to ride through New York City with a police escort,” said NYC H.O.G.’s Jaime Fernandez, originally from Madrid.

Eighteen New York City police officers led the way from Long Island City, Queens, through Brooklyn to Forest Park in Queens. New York’s Finest on their white Harleys held back traffic, giving the 220 riders a perfect view of iconic sights including the Manhattan skyline, the One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. Riders were able to glide past the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, feel the ocean breeze and enjoy the tree-lined parkways without dodging the normal chaotic New York City traffic.

NYC H.O.G. Director Joe Sessa (l) and Grand Marshal Peter Vallone Jr. get ready to lead the ride

NYC H.O.G. Director Joe Sessa (l) and Grand Marshal Peter Vallone Jr. get ready to lead the ride (photo by Carlos Varon)

Autumn Sol just bought a Harley and was happy to join the ride. “It’s awesome. My first group ride is more than 200 bikers. That’s really cool.” Riders of all types of bikes came for many reasons. Special assistant to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC H.O.G. member Peter Vallone Jr. led the ride as grand marshal on his Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide. “Bikers get a bad rap occasionally,” said Villone Jr. “It’s good to show people there are far more good bikers than bad. That’s what it’s all about—raising money for a great cause.”

NYC H.O.G.’s 21st annual Bikers Against Breast Cancer raised $18,615.15 on June 8 for the nonprofit group SHAREing & CAREing. This is the fourth year BABC has worked to help the Astoria, New York, charity.

New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas spoke to the riders as they gathered at Harley-Davidson of NYC in Long Island City. “It’s wonderful to come to an event that supports SHAREing & CAREing and see so many people out here on a beautiful morning. It means so much to people who are touched by breast cancer.”

Vallone said that it also means a great deal to the group. “SHAREing & CAREing is a small group and needs this money. This group doesn’t survive without the money that you guys give to them, and because they survive, they help others survive.”

BABC has been going strong since 1994. Former NYC H.O.G. Director Joe “T” Tumminia started it to honor women riders in the club. “We were the first motorcycle group to do a breast cancer run. Before NYC H.O.G. you never heard of anyone doing it.” The loss of his wife and daughter to breast cancer inspired him to dedicate the ride to fight the disease. His wife Edina died in 1979; his daughter Sue Filice died in 1995. “It happened to my family. It shouldn’t happen to anyone else,” he said.

More than 39,000 women were expected to die from breast cancer in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society. Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women.

NYC H.O.G.’s Al Panzella has been participating in BABC since 1999. “In the first 17 years we raised a little more than $1.2 million for the American Cancer Society. Now we work with SHAREing & CAREing, where every single dime goes to direct patient care, rehabilitation and counseling. Everything the cancer patient needs.”

SHAREing & CAREing provides those services and more for free. “We know this money will touch others’ lives. People who are struggling, be it with transportation or getting hair pieces or even access to another opinion, we are there to help them and this goes to help them,” said Anna Kril, SHAREing & CAREing co-founder and breast cancer survivor.

SHAREing & CAREing’s Anna Kril accepts a $9,193 check from NYC H.O.G. member Jeff Gold

SHAREing & CAREing’s Anna Kril accepts a $9,193 check from NYC H.O.G. member Jeff Gold (photo by Carlos Varon)

Some riders had personal reasons for supporting BABC. “I feel great being here. My mother passed away from breast cancer eight years ago,” said NYC H.O.G.’s Calvin Boone.

Every rider donated at least $25 and one rider collected thousands. NYC H.O.G.’s Jeffrey Gold contributed a whopping $9,193. “My company, my employees, my vendors, my clients—they also support the group and the work it’s doing.” Gold is director of operations for Multifamily Management Services in New York.

After a 52-mile ride, bikers chowed down on delicious Italian food catered by Cascarino’s of College Point, New York, and rocked out to live music by the Steve Marshall Band with Simon Kirke from Bad Company sitting in on the drums.

NYC H.O.G. awarded three trophies for motorcycle skill games: slow ride and cone weave. First place went to Lou Mancao with Star Touring and Riding Association. Only riding for six years, he said, “If you practice riding the right way, you can relax and enjoy the ride.” Second place was earned by NYC H.O.G.’s Richie “Blue Eyes” Kampf and third went to Gotham Disciples’ Sal DiMisa.

After months of planning and one long day of making riders welcome, NYC H.O.G. Director Joe Sessa congratulated the chapter for its hard work. “My H.O.G. chapter is the best. They all pulled together with everybody jumping in where they can. It’s just a great group of people.”

NYC H.O.G. members Mike Wojtowicz, Juan Marmol, Cheryl Oppenheim and “Jo Mo” show their support

NYC H.O.G. members Mike Wojtowicz, Juan Marmol, Cheryl Oppenheim and “Jo Mo” show their support (photo by Carlos Varon)

A couple of riders captured the mood. “It was great to meet all the people,” said Harley rider Tommy Christou. “I came to support breast cancer, be with good people, ride with my buddies and enjoy the beautiful weather,” said Chris Johnson of Westchester County, New York.

“No matter how great the ride, the bottom line is fighting breast cancer,” said Sessa, who has also lost family to the disease. “That’s why I do this every year, and as long as we have this run, I’ll continue to do it.” Sessa says NYC H.O.G.’s Bikers Against Breast Cancer will be back for its 22nd annual event in June 2015.

To find out more about SHAREing & CAREing, or to donate, go to www.shareingandcareing.catseyedevelopment.com. And for more information about NYC H.O.G., check out www.nychog.com.

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