They were the over-the-hill gang, or maybe the over-the-bridge gang. About 80 motorcyclists set out from Porky’s Last Stand on Marco Island Sunday morning, Harleys thundering. Although the bikers carried no wrapped presents, what they were doing indirectly was delivering Christmas gifts to kids who otherwise likely wouldn’t be getting any.
The Ride for Joy poker run, a longtime annual event held to benefit the even longer-time local charity, Joy of Giving, raises money which is used to allow underprivileged local children the chance to have a shopping spree and pick out gifts they would like. On affluent Marco Island, the phrase “underprivileged local children” might seem incongruous, but for thousands of kids living nearby, it is all too real, said Nicki Davis, Joy of Giving’s founder.
“The need is amazing,” she said, pointing out that at Manatee Elementary and Manatee Middle Schools, just down Collier Blvd., more than 90 percent of the students live in families with incomes low enough to qualify for the free school breakfast and lunch programs.
“This is the best charity in the universe,” said ride organizer Ernie Bordon of Auto Craft. “Thanks to Joy of Giving, probably 1,000 kids will wake up Christmas morning with something and not nothing.”
Before heading out, riders were treated to a complimentary breakfast at Porky’s Last Stand, headquarters for the run, where they returned after a run up to Fort Myers Beach and back. The stage lights behind the buffet line did strange things to the color of the food, turning the scrambled eggs blue, but the meal was appreciated. After returning, riders compared poker hands to see who won, and bid on auction items donated by local businesses, including stays at the Hilton, the Marriott and the Boathouse and a fishing outfit from Sunshine Ace Hardware.
It was a beautiful morning for a ride, the motorcycles were purring and it gave ladies including Cathy Hazelhurst and Cathy Meskunas an excuse to pull their high-heeled black leather boots out of the closet. The guys made fashion statements as well, wearing leather, bandannas and T-shirts from previous “runs.”
A biker who gave his name as “Tater” and who was going to argue with him about it? wore a black T-shirt and leather vest identifying him as sergeant at arms for the Outlaws. His arms, fittingly, were covered with tattoos including a death’s head and a spider web over his left elbow.
The number of bikers wearing grins brought to mind the old riddle, “How do you tell a happy motorcyclist?” The answer is “by the bugs in his teeth.” The number opting to ride helmetless also was a reminder of what law enforcement calls motorcyclists who ride without helmets organ donors.
They did have a police escort as they rode out of Porky’s. As founder of the organization benefiting from the run, Nicki Davis was able to flout convention, and lead the pack on her big Suzuki bike, but Harleys were the overwhelming choice of ride.
Davis said the payoff comes Dec. 14 at Walmart, when the kids hit the aisles at 6 a.m. and get to make their selections. In previous years, a lot of them went for practical items along with the toys and skateboards, and some use the funds to buy gifts for other family members.
“We have 1,000 kids we have identified and qualified,” she said. “We hope to raise $80,000 for them,” and every dollar goes to the children.
To donate the Joy of Giving, a 501(c)3 registered charity, go online to joyofgivingchildren.org.