Biketown’s owners said they want to organize more charity events.
By VIRGINIA ROSS SHANK
AUSTINTOWN — Cheryl Parsons handed out maps and collected registration forms before jumping on her motorcycle and joining hundreds of other folks who participated in Sunday’s Big Bike Ride across the local countryside.
The event allowed Parsons to put her efforts into two areas she’s passionate about — her charity work and her motorcycle.
“This was amazing for me,” she said, after returning to Harley- Davidson Biketown, where the run started Sunday morning and ended later in the evening. “This gave me a chance to ride, but to also ride for something I believe in, to ride for a cause. You can’t beat that.”
Parsons got involved with the March of Dimes a few years ago through her union at work. A relatively new rider, she said she jumped at the chance to help Biketown owners Tom and Shirley Wronkovich with their inaugural fund-raising event benefiting three area charities — the March of Dimes, the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley and Angels for Animals.
“And it was fantastic,” said Parsons, who’s been riding her own motorcycle just over a year. “I’ve always rode on the back of my husband’s bike, but when I retired last year, I decided I was going to ride myself. Days like today, I’m glad I’m doing it.”
Sunday’s bike run drew about 450 operators with at least 200 passengers. Participants made their way to the Biketown lawn, where they feasted on the dinner provided for them and listened to classic rock performed by The House Band.
“We couldn’t be more pleased with the response,” said Shirley Wronkovich, crying as she watched the motorcycles depart around noon in a single group escorted by local police. “We really appreciate everyone’s support. It’s amazing when you see so many bikes in one place, all to help these charities. It’s amazing. It’s really exciting.”
The Rescue Mission fights homelessness and hunger; Angels for Animals rescues abused and abandoned animals; and the March of Dimes works to make a difference in infant mortality and birth defects. The Wronkoviches said they admire the work of each of the three charities and wanted to do something at Biketown to benefit them all.
“Whether you want to support one of them or all of them, there was an opportunity here today,” she said. “This was the first time we’ve tried something like this. I think it’s definitely something we’ll do again, definitely.”
Beckie Kuehn and her husband, Doug, of Boardman are fairly new riders, having never participated in a formal bike run until Sunday’s Big Bike Ride.
“I’ve donated my time to charity through work and thought this was something my husband and I could do and be part of,” she said. “This is only our second year of riding, and we wanted to get involved and make the most of it. And it’s been great. Everyone’s great, and people really want to do something good. It’s nice to be part of that.”
And then there were the veteran riders such as brothers Dan and John Reed of Diamond, who said they appreciate any opportunity to take their bikes to the highway.
“It’s just a good day to go for a ride,” said Dan Reed. “It’s nice to do something good for a good cause, too, but it’s still about the ride. You get all of those bikes riding together, going the same direction. That’s nice, really nice.”