The Independent Bikers Queens are getting ready to set out on their 20th annual Toys for Tots run Sunday. The bikers will gather at their traditional starting point at Hillside and Myrtle avenues in Richmond Hill at 1 p.m. and weave their way through Queens streets to the Bernard Fineson Developmental Center at the corner of Crossbay Boulevard and the Belt Parkway.
"What happened was about 20 years ago we were looking for a place to go and the Bernard Fineson Center was the only place to let us interact with the community," said Michael Schneider of Glendale, a spokesman for the Independent Bikers of Queens. "We wanted to give back to the community and show that bikers were not bad. It also gave us the opportunity to show any of us could have children in this situation."
He said the group works with the center year round and the Toys for Tots run is just the fund-raising event.
"The clients look forward to us coming," Schneider said. "They are so full of joy."
He said the money raised from the run helps to fund therapeutic and recreational facilities for the center's residents. In the past donations have been used to buy electrical hospital beds, wheel chairs, exercise equipment, swimming pools and a 40-by-60-foot sun shelter.
The money the bikers have raised has also been used to send the center's residents on field trips to the circus, World on Ice, The Harlem Globetrotters, Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida.
The Bernard Fineson Center is run by the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. The agency serves children and adults who are mildly to severely retarded or disabled by birth defects, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.
Schneider said the first time the group got onto their "hogs" to hit the road in 1980, they raised a little more than $200 in toys and cash. Last year the group had 10,000 bikers riding the route and raised more than $35,000.
"The Independent Bikers look forward to the largest turnout in toy run history," he said. "These special children are eagerly waiting for Santa's helpers and the roar of their motorcycles, as the bikers are waiting for their heartwarming smiles. This is the true meaning of Christmas spirit."
For information on the organization or to volunteer, call 323-0448.
Tax deductible donations can be sent to Independent Bikers Toys for Tots, PO. Box 210090, Woodhaven, N.Y. 11421.
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