School custodian raises funds, awareness
I've been a school custodian for more than 23 years, and I'm proud to serve as chairperson of the Wappingers Federation of Transit, Custodial and Maintenance Workers (WFW). I live in the historic and picturesque Hudson Valley, in the shadow of the Shawangunk Mountains. Like many others, I enjoy riding my motorcycle through the hills, taking pleasure in the rumble of the motor as I lean into the turn of a winding country road.
In my "other life," I am the president of the Lost Wheels Motorcycle Club, a wonderful organization whose members consist of (mostly) mature men and women from all walks of life. Our club has a proud history of charity and service, with a special place in our hearts for our Armed Forces veterans.
For the last 37 years, our club has held its annual fundraising event, called a Poker Run, on the Sunday following Labor Day. A Poker Run is an event at which the entrants pay a fee, ride a pre-planned route that ends at a site where they enjoy food, music, vendors, games and prizes. There's also a bike show that is judged by the bikers themselves.
This year, the run fell on the auspicious date of Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on our country. It was also the 10th anniversary of the murder of one of our own, Joseph Roberto, who was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. His death left a hole in our lives that can never be filled. Our Poker Run was held in his memory and in thanks to the men and women who left the comfort of home and family to serve this country in its response to those attacks.
We had invited the Veterans Affairs Hudson Valley Health Care System to set up an informational booth at the Run so they could inform any veteran bikers about important changes that have occurred recently. Shortly thereafter, I was contacted by Emily Feiner, manager of the VA's Welcome Home Program. She asked if the club would like to host servicemen and women, recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families at the Poker Run. I was thrilled at the request and, after discussion with the club, we decided to invite them to be our guests.
Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, was a beautiful day for a Poker Run. The Run site, Canopus Lake at Fahnstock State Park, was lush and green. Soon, the motorcycle riders began to arrive — and so did the returning veterans. Twenty veterans and their families honored us with their presence and shared the day with our club and about 250 Poker Run bikers. To commemorate the day, we had a non-denominational invocation and a flag-raising ceremony complete with a National Guard bugler. The bugler's trumpet rang out loud and clear and called to mind the sacrifices that have been made for us all.