Heart of a biker: raising funds for needy kids

May 13, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ
  • A motorcycle owned by Scott Heine of El Centro is shown above. KEVIN MARTY PHOTO

Staff Writer

If it's 7 p.m. Thursday, it must be time for the Burgers & Beer run.

It's here that a cross-section of Imperial Valley residents gather to socialize, eat, smoke cigars and talk about how they might do good deeds for the community.

Did we say, they're all motorcyclists? They are, and most ride Harley-Davidsons and wear black leathers.

Founder of the nameless group is Alfredo Rivera, an Army combat veteran and long-time federal employee at Naval Air Facility El Centro.

Rivera, 55, said the group's charitable activities is a self-satisfying way to serve the community in which the participants live.

"It's the American way," he said.

Motorcyclists who gather at the Imperial Avenue burger restaurant come from all walks of Imperial Valley life, from law enforcement to medicine to the legal profession and more.

"Anybody who rides a motorcycle, whether American- or Japanese-made, is welcome here," Rivera said.


Sitting at the table with Rivera are Navy personnel from NAF. One is Chief Yeoman Mike Merrick, who's been meeting with the others at Burgers & Beer for about a year and rides a 2001 Harley XLC 1200 Sportster.

"I like to contribute what I can to the community and ride motorcycles with these people," he said when asked why he's involved with the group. "I like to ride in groups because it bands people together while bringing together help for local charities, and it brings positive publicity to bikers."

Charity runs include a toys for tots Christmas run and a Thanksgiving turkey run.

The toys for tots run typically ends at the Betty Jo McNeece Receiving Home, where the bikers deliver toys and visit with the youngsters.

The turkey run begins at Albertson's, where the bikers buy the biggest birds they can find. After purchase, the turkeys are put on ice in the back of a truck. Last year's run led them first to deliver turkeys to Posada Del Sol apartments in El Centro, Neighborhood House in Calexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in El Centro and St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Holtville.

The bikers also lead off El Centro's Christmas Parade.

All of the runs come with entry fees used to encourage further charitable events or as prize money for participation in the runs.

Bob Fernandez, a correctional lieutenant at Calipatria State Prison, said besides participating in the Burgers & Beer run, he belongs to the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club. It is a club made up of law enforcement officers, with about 32 members. The groups hold monthly meetings and participate in charitable events throughout the community, including an annual poker run. Recipients of the raised funds include a local crisis center and the receiving home.

"We're all local law enforcement and we like to give back to the community," said Fernandez, who rides a 1999 Yamaha Road Star.

One motorcyclist, who declined to give his name, said another law enforcement club is forming called Rolling Heat.

Rivera, who rides a 1988 Harley Heritage, said the idea behind the Burgers & Beer run came about because he saw hundreds of motorcyclists in the Imperial Valley who appeared somewhat lacking in a cohesive direction. He suggested they meet at B&B because the eatery reminded him of a place where he could go with his family.

"We talk about Harleys, but it also gives us the opportunity to plan and discuss upcoming community events," Rivera said.

Runs where gifts or food are given are not the only ones in which they participate. Because of his combat experience during the Vietnam War, Rivera and the group participated in the Sept. 11 candlelight vigil on the steps of the County Courthouse in El Centro following the World Trade Center tragedy. The bikers also participated in a local JCPenney fund-raiser for New York City firefighters and police officers.

They also have conducted two so-called veterans honoring veterans events, where veterans are treated to a free dinner.

"There are a lot of people who need help," Rivera said.

If it's 10 p.m. the run must be over.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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