By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
MARLBOROUGH – After a four-year hiatus, the Shawna Jean Larassa (SJL) Memorial Ride will return Saturday, Aug. 14.
The motorcycle ride, benefiting the SJL Memorial Scholarship Fund, is once again beginning and ending at the Marlborough Moose Family Center 1129.
George Larassa of Marlborough established the scholarship fund in memory of his daughter Shawna. She died from a vehicle accident at age 19 in 2009. At the time, Shawna had completed her freshman year at Johnson & Wales, where she majored in business and criminal justice.
“When Shawna went to college, she worked really hard to get her scholarships,” Larassa noted. “I started this scholarship fund in honor of her and to help people who need it.”
The SJL Ride took place annually for seven years from 2010 to 2016.
“I needed some time for myself for personal reasons,” Larassa said of the hiatus. “Now, I’m back again in full swing.”
Continuing efforts during hiatus
A motorcyclist himself, Larassa participates in other fundraising rides. His support continued during SJL Ride’s hiatus.
“I go to rides to support other charities, and they, in turn, support Shawna’s ride,” he noted.
During the hiatus, he also continued presenting scholarships.
In 2017, at Marlborough Rotary Club’s annual Turkey Shoot, high school students could enter a drawing to win an SJL memorial scholarship.
Larassa also awards scholarships in less public settings. While dining at a restaurant, he learned from his server that she was working overtime to cover college debt.
“I was able to hand her a check to help pay for her expenses,” he relayed. “I carry a check with me at all times and get to surprise people. To see the look on their faces is truly amazing.”
Event’s traditions return
A tradition of the SJL Ride is a new route each year. 2021’s route goes from Marlborough to seven other communities. The communities in order are Hudson, Bolton, Lancaster, Sterling, Lunenburg, through Lancaster again, Clinton, Berlin, back to Hudson and returning to Marlborough.
Travel time for the approximately 55-mile route is about an hour and 45 minutes.
Other supporters can join the motorcyclists and passengers for post-ride activities at the Marlborough Moose.
There, another returning tradition is a butterfly release.
“Shawna loved butterflies,” Larassa shared. “When Shawna was a little girl, her grandmother got her caterpillars. They’d watch the caterpillars morph into butterflies.”
Offering food, raffles and music
A post-ride lunch includes hamburgers and hot dogs along with vegetable and fruit salads. An ice cream truck from Trombetta’s Farm will be onsite.
“Kids 12 and under will get a free ice cream,” Larassa added.
Among raffle prizes are a Bose sound system, a motorized bicycle, and game tickets for the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots and WooSox.
The Marlborough-based band Flashback is the musical entertainment. Their repertoire features classic rock-‘n’-roll oldies along with Motown and country hits.
Receiving community support
The SJL Ride and activities consistently attract hundreds of motorcyclists, passengers and other supporters of all ages.
“It has gotten bigger and bigger every year,” Larassa said of the event. “I’m hoping that the turnout is as big as it has been in the past, so I can continue giving out scholarships.”
Breakfast is available when registration starts at 8 a.m. The ride begins at 11 a.m. Donations are $20 for riders, $10 for passengers and others for the post-ride activities.
Find updates on the Facebook event page “SJL Ride 2021.”