NUTLEY, NJ - Sounds of motorcycle engines filled the air as bike by bike filled Highfield Lane Sunday, April 29 during the annual Motorcycle Blessing and Holy Roller Run at Grace Episcopal Church in Nutley. About 125 motorcyclists, a total of 150 participants, from all over New Jersey gathered on the church’s front lawn for the annual service and fundraiser. Clergy from various Episcopalian churches were also present for the event.
The annual event raised $4,200 for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Donations were also collected on the website through afsp.org.
Organizer Christine Henriquez of the group Finding Dori lost her husband to suicide and reached out to the Iron Knights of Newark President George Lodato asking if he could do a fundraiser to promote awareness for them. In the past the Iron Knights held this annual run for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newark.
Lodato said, “It is something we could do to help. Although Habitat for Humanity is a great organization, this needed us a little bit more. It’s an honor to do this. People don’t know how much motorcyclists contribute to these awarenesses [sic] and fundraisers.”
Be the Voice organizer Melanie Ciappi was handing out flyers about suicide awareness explaining what to do to help those in need. “Preventing the stigma of mental health with a group of guys on motorcycles says something,” she said.
Paula Field of the AFSP said, “Talking saves lives and mental health training. To bring programs to survivors and outreach programs to those who had a recent loss.”
Ciappi said, “We don’t blame someone who has diabetes, yet we tell someone with depression to just snap out of it. …It’s time we change the conversation.”
The band Full Throttle performed some new and classic songs entertaining the crowd. Nutley Police Department assisted with the run. Also present was Nutley Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad.
The short service began with the Rev. Pam Bakal of Grace Church. Bakal said, “We come together to give thanks of the joy motorcycles bring, to change a custom to those who suffer from mental illness to break the stigma.”
The Rev. Karen Rezach gave the motorcycle blessing, […]May your tires not fail you, nor your engine grow old, may your bike draw life from the streams it passes...,” she said.
Road captain Iron Knight Joe “3 Card” Monte detailed the route to the participants. Each year the route changes some. This year the bikers rode 60 miles from route 21 to route 78 to route 287 and wrapping around to route 21 back to the church.
After the motorcycles took off the Rev. Audrey Hasselbrook led the Memorial Walk from the church through Memorial Park and past Town Hall and the Public Safety building. About a dozen participants took part in the walk.
The fundraiser wrapped up with a barbecue consisting of hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and ham. All the food was donated by Nutley Park ShopRite. The beverages and gift raffles were also donated by many local businesses.
The Iron Knights of Newark will be holding their annual Christmas in July Toy Drive on July 14, for more information Iron Knights is located on Facebook.