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ABATE motorcycle run roars through Kane, piles up toys, food for kids

Motorcycles arrive Sunday at the Batavia VFW as part of the DuKane ABATE Food/Toy Run.
Motorcycles arrive Sunday at the Batavia VFW as part of the DuKane ABATE Food/Toy Run.

BATAVIA - John Bloch knows that many non-profit groups might organize fundraising drives in and around the Tri-Cities.

But each year few, if any, other local fundraising drives are quite as loud and boisterous as the one Bloch's group has organized and run for more than a quarter century.

"We've been doing this for 27 years," said Bloch, of North Aurora. "It's a good thing we've got going.

"So we're not going to stop now."

Sunday, Bloch was among dozens of volunteers helping to organize the DuKane ABATE chapter's annual Toy and Food Run.

DuKane ABATE president Judy Kaenel estimated the event drew almost 2,000 participants.

Most of them rode more than 1,000 motorcycles, on a roaring parade route that began at Knucklehead's Tavern in Elburn and ended at the Batavia VFW post on Route 25, south of Batavia's downtown.

Participants were required to pay an entry fee and to donate a toy and non-perishable food items. The donations were to be distributed to a number of local charities and governmental agencies, including area food pantries, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, Lutheran Social Services, and Aunt Martha's Youth Service Center in Aurora, among others.

ABATE is a political action group organized to lobby for the interests of motorcyclists.

The biker parade roared off from Elburn around 12:30 p.m. with an escort from the Kane County Sheriff's Office and arrived in downtown Batavia shortly before 1 p.m. Along the route, police officers and members of Kane County Emergency Management blocked off intersections to allow the hundreds of motorcyclists rapid passage.

On the grounds of the VFW, the motorcyclists were treated to a festival atmosphere, with live entertainment, food, beverages, and a vendor area, in which select purveyors of motorcycle-related merchandise as well as several non-profit organizations could seek to drum up support.

Among those in the vendor area were representatives of the Special Olympics and the Sheridan Veterans Memorial organization, a group that has worked since 2007 to raise tens of thousands of dollars to build a monument plaza to honor those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The memorial is located in the village of Sheridan in La Salle County.

Chuck Bergeron, who also serves as Sheridan's police chief and chief fundraiser for the memorial group, said events like the Toy and Food Run are a key source of support for his group, as bikers, he said, are generous toward veteran-related causes.

"Many bikers are veterans themselves, and those that aren't, wanted to be," Bergeron said. "These kinds of gatherings for us are great. We're always well received."

Others jockeying for support from the assembled bikers included such political figures as local state legislators, candidates for Kane County Sheriff, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, and candidates for Illinois governor, State Sen. Kirk Dillard and State Treasurer Dan Rutherford.

Motorcyclist Jim Markham, of Elgin, was among the hundreds who rode from Elburn and gathered in Batavia Sunday.

He said Sunday's ride marked his second year participating in the event. This year, he also volunteered, helping to set up the festival grounds on Saturday.

"People see motorcycles, and they think riders have a bad name," Markham said. "But most of the time, you see a large group riding on a weekend, it's usually a group raising money for someone."

Bloch, who served as DuKane ABATE's president last year, said the event is the largest such charitable run staged by his group each year.

"We hope this will pay off," he said. "And it sounds like it already did."

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