NUTLEY, NJ - Nice weather and a blessing was all the Iron Knights of Newark Motorcycle Club wanted and is exactly what they got. A variety of motorcycles parked in front of Grace Episcopal Church on Highfield Lane in Nutley for the annual Motorcycle Blessing and Holy Roller Run Saturday, May 11.
The Iron Knights again teamed up with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) raising funds for mental health.
Last year group leader Christine Henriquez of Finding Dori reached out to George Lodato, Iron Knights of Newark president, asking the club to do a fundraiser to promote suicide awareness. Henriquez lost her husband Lorenzo to suicide on June 4, 2016 at the age of 28. The Iron Knights then decided to hold their annual Holy Roller Run for their cause.
“It’s in sympathy with the church,” said Stuart “Coach” Bakal, husband of the rector of Grace Church, the Rev. Pamela Bakal. “I just want everyone to come out and have a good time. We have a good road captain out front and someone in the back to make sure everyone is safe,” he added.
Bakal, nicknamed by the Iron Knights as “Zoom,” and the Rev. Audrey Hasselbrook led the service. Melanie Ciappi, board secretary of AFSP of NJ and Henriquez were present to hand out pamphlets on suicide prevention, “Be the Voice” buttons, “Out of the Darkness” magnets and “#Stop Suicide” bracelets. Ciappi said, “George organized it all. The ride says a lot to raise awareness for suicide prevention, getting all out on the highway says a lot.”
Nutley police officers and Nutley Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad were present. Officer Joe O’Halloran rode along on his police motorcycle. The service started with a moment of silence for all those effected by suicide. “Thanks for the joy motorcycles bring,” said Bakal.
Hasslebrook gave the prayer, “[…] remember those who lost someone from suicide, those who died by suicide or by motor vehicle accidents,” she said.
Iron Knights MC member Joe “Prospect” Nutlie of Bloomfield gave the reading. A moment of silence was held.
Bakal gave the motorcycle blessing, “[…] May your bike draw life from the streams you pass. Keep your seat soft and your mind sharp […].”
The bikers took off down Highfield Lane to Route 21 to 280 headed on a scenic route west circling back and ending the trip at the Iron Knights of Newark Motorcycle Club clubhouse in Newark for the after celebration.
Although the weather was good the event only raised a little over $400 which was a fraction of what the event raised last year. They brought in $4,200 in 2018. Bakal believes having the event on a Saturday instead of a Sunday and the location was a deterrent. “Moving the after celebration off premise didn’t help,” said Bakal.
Lodato also said the change of day and place didn’t help the fundraiser. “Because of the change of date and location we won’t get a lot of people like we expect to get usually on Sundays,” he said.
The Motorcycle Blessing and Holy Roller Run has been running at Grace Episcopal Church for over 10 years raising funds for various causes including rider education and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newark and most recently for the second year in a row the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. After a short service, blessing of the motorcycles and a scenic ride, the bikers usually gather on the church lawn for hamburgers, hot dogs, ham and hold conversations.
Iron Knights Sgt. at Arms Paul “Boulder” Rogers said people don’t understand just how much motorcycle clubs like his do for charities. “I spend well over $1,000 for donations for charities in a year, most of us do. Lots of us pay and even take off from work to do these events,” he said.
Rogers said they do a lot of charity events raising money for various causes and participate in other organizations runs such as Wounded Warriors and Vets helping Vets. In April the Iron Knights held a Little League Run, they also hold Christmas in July and in December cookies with Santa.
To learn more about the Newark Iron Knights Motorcycle Club and their fundraisers, visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/iron.knights.9.
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