BELLWOOD - With the first blare of the air horn Sunday, dozens of leather-clad bikers strapped on their helmets and checked their gear. With the second, 10 minutes later, they mounted up and roared off toward the open road.
The motorcycle riders, all gathered in a Bellwood parking lot Sunday morning, had joined the 11th Burgi's Low Life Riders Charity Ride - a ride that seems to grow every year and slated to raise tens of thousands of dollars for ailing children, participants said.
"It's word of mouth through the biker community," said Jeff Goss of Altoona, standing over his Harley-Davidson Road King.
There are many summer charity rides - almost too many, some bikers said - but the Burgi's ride, founded by and named after Burgmeier Hauling Inc. head Dave Burgmeier, is among the largest and best-organized. Last year it raised some $43,000 for two children with heavy medical expenes, Low Life Riders Vice President Steve Kasun said, and it's on pace to match that for three children this year.
Before they rolled out Sunday, dozens of bikers listened as the parents of 6-year-old Dominick DeVecchis, who suffers from a type of bone cancer; 3-year-old Lincoln Duvall, who has a genetic disorder; and 2-year-old Brielle Harmon, who has a mitochondrial disorder, all praised the fundraisers' hard work. Organizers said they chose from 15 applicant families - a threefold increase from last year's ride.
"Brielle has been through so, so much ... but she is an incredibly strong little girl," mother April Harmon said, thanking the crowd.
With the call to depart, the sound of a few motors turned to a cacophony and the bikes roared out toward Philipsburg and State College, their goals for the day. They'd then return to Altoona for an evening party that could raise even more money, organizers said.
Each year the ride grows as more bikers hear of the its success, said Goss, who has taken part since the beginning.
"I've been riding all my life. I know, I'm not going to say every biker, but a lot of them," he said. "Word spreads pretty fast."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.