BY JOHN J. HOPKINS
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A tradition that started more than 25 years ago continued Monday night when a group of motorcycle riders brought gifts to the residents of Wyndham Lawn Home for Children.
Members of the Niagara Falls Harley Owners Group brought Wii gaming systems and games, along with wireless Wii remotes for the kids.
The bikers began making their annual convoy to Wyndham Lawn in the 1980s, bringing gifts selected from an annual wish list.
This year’s items were selected because of the various health benefits the children gain from using the motion-required gaming system. Many of the games — dancing-based — were selected for their fitness benefits. Allison Martinez, daughter of HOG member Tony Martinez, selected the items.
“They tell us their needs each year and we pick from the list,” said Andre Savard, activities director for the American Harley Davidson-sponsored Niagara Falls HOG chapter, which boasts more than 250 members. “One year we brought them a washer and dryer, another year a TV.”
According to Savard, the tradition with Wyndham Lawn began 26 years ago, but it’s not the only beneficiary from his group.
Jack Gorman, director for the Niagara Falls HOG, said the community mission in Niagara Falls, Make-A-Wish and the Lothlorien Therapeutic Riding Center in East Aurora also receive donations.
“What’s great about these charities is we know that the donations are staying local,” Gorman said. “It’s going to go to people in Niagara County and nearby.”
Savard said that Monday’s donations are paid for from money left over from the group’s annual Blessing of the Bikes event held every spring. Gorman added that the leftover amount is usually between $400-600.
“It’s good to help the kids out because they don’t have anything,” Gorman said.
Brad Sande, development director for New Directions Youth and Family Services, which operates Wyndham Lawn, said the Niagara Falls HOG chapter has “always been generous.”
Wyndham Lawn has 40 residents and provides highly-specialized services and programs for youth with emotional, educational and behavioral challenges.
Sande said the group usually plans a summer picnic at the facility, where the children have an opportunity to look at the bikes.
“It’s a nice experience for them and our youngsters,” Sande said, adding he’s grateful for the group’s time. “These people are aware that there are kids who need a sign of support and encouragement.”
After presenting the gifts, the leather- and denim-clad HOG members mingled with the residents and staff of Wyndham Lawn.
“We always have fun with this event,” Gorman said.