By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – A group of avid motorcyclists known as the Marlborough Eagle Riders 3565 names a different benefiting charity each year for its major fundraiser. Special Olympics Massachusetts (SOMA) will receive the proceeds of their 18th annual Charity Motorcycle Ride, scheduled for Saturday, May 13.
The fundraiser exemplifies the ongoing comradery among the region’s motorcyclists and their benevolent concerns, noted Dick Durkee, the Marlborough Eagle Riders president.
“The motorcycle community in this area is very supportive of each other,” he said.
For the past three years, the Marlborough Eagle Riders have participated in the Marlborough Police Department (MPD) Motorcycle Ride to benefit SOMA, which is organized by Officer Andy LaRose. This year’s MPD Ride is set for Saturday, June 24. Durkee and his fellow riders plan to be there with a special donation.
“Proceeds from our charity ride this year will be donated to Andy at his MPD Ride in June,” Durkee explained. “Andy helps us out a lot with our ride. He gets motorcycle police from several towns to volunteer a couple hours of their time and ride with us. They block intersections and stop traffic, so we can continue rolling instead of stopping at all the lights. Andy gets at least seven or eight police bikes to go with us every time.”
Past Eagle Riders charity rides have been escorted by motorcycle police officers from Auburn, Boxborough, Grafton, Marlborough, Southborough, Sturbridge and Westborough.
“Having the police with us makes for a lot safer ride,” Durkee added. “We want to pay Andy back for doing that for us.”
Also, the Eagle Riders are pleased to help SOMA. According to its website, “SOMA provides year-round sports training, athletic competition and other health-related programming for athletes with intellectual disabilities throughout the state.”
Among the rides’ previous benefiting charities are Boston Children’s Hospital; Wounded Warrior Project; 15-40 Connection, which empowers teens and young adults with knowledge to recognize early-stage cancer; and Thrive Support & Advocacy, formerly known as Greater Marlborough Programs Inc., which serves families with developmentally disabled children and adults.
A benefitting charity is sometimes chosen because it’s meaningful to a member of the Fraternal Order of Marlborough Eagles Aerie 3565. In 2015, the ride was held to raise autism awareness in honor of Aaron Dean, a young grandson of Marlborough Eagles members Sharon and Donald Gladu. Proceeds were donated to the Autism Speaks New England Chapter.
Durkee understands firsthand the impact of the Eagles’ motto “People Helping People.” One year the ride benefitted the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“I have two adult children with muscular dystrophy,” he shared.
Another year, the ride proceeds were donated in memory of his sister-in-law to her favorite charity, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The approximately 48-mile ride will begin at the Marlborough Eagles lodge at 56 Florence St. Registration is 9 to 11 a.m. Donation is $20 per rider, $10 per passenger. Kickstands are up at 11:05 a.m.
“We ride around Wachusett Reservoir and come back into Clinton,” Durkee noted. “Then we ride the back way to Marlborough Fish & Game. They donate their property for us.”
At Marlborough Fish & Game, 1 Muddy Lane, walk-ins are welcomed for a $10 donation. Beginning at 1 p.m., festivities include a barbecue, 50/50 and other raffles. Live music will be provided by Mike Melendez, a singer, songwriter, guitarist, mandolinist and guitjo player. Among local venues where Melendez performs are Funky Murphys Bar & Grill in Marlborough, and Medusa Brewing Company in Hudson.
Event sponsorship for $100 is available up to Sunday, April 30. Sponsors receive free admission for a rider and passenger, as well as acknowledgements throughout the day. Individuals, organizations or businesses interested in sponsoring can contact Durkee at [email protected].
“It’s always a nice day to take a ride and do something that makes you feel good,” he said. “We’re looking forward to another successful year.”