Hearts on Fire: KMC H.O.G. Ride Supports Burn-Injured Youth
Harley Chapter Presents $17k Check and Offers Motorcycle Rides to Campers
NEW BERLIN, WI, August 25, 2009 – On Tuesday evening, August 18th, a motorcycle parade--with members from the Kettle Moraine Harley Owners’ Group Chapter (KMC H.O.G.) along with staff from Hal’s Harley-Davidson, friends and family--presented a check for $17,446, representing year-long fundraising efforts to offset the cost of the camp for as many Wisconsin kids as possible and offered motorcycle rides with photo mementos to burn injured campers. The group departed from Hal’s in New Berlin for the chapter’s 8th annual Hearts on Fire ride to the Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety’s Summer Camp for Burn Injured Youth in East Troy. Hal’s Harley-Davidson sponsors both the Kettle Moraine Chapter and this heart-warming ride.
“We’re very proud to support the Fire Alliance’s Burn Camp. Most of these kids—through no fault of their own—face challenges that many of us can never imagine. To put a smile on a child’s face, share some fun and offer them an experience that simply lets them be themselves is such a positive connection…it is gratifying for all of us,” reflects Kirk Topel, owner of Hal’s Harley-Davidson in New Berlin.
This year’s ride was record breaking with 207 bikes participating, escorted by the Waukesha Sheriff’s Department along with the City of New Berlin, Town of Pewaukee and the Town of Summit police to Camp Timber-lee in East Troy. Cheering campers lined the roadway as the motorcycle group paraded into the campsite. Bikers not only offered rides but also lent their helmets, leathers and other accessories for candid photos that captured the thrill of the ride. Campers thanked the riders with handcrafted friendship bracelets.
From August 16th to 22nd, 70 kids ranging in age from 7-17 are attending the 15th annual Summer Camp for Burn Injured Youth, supported by 50 volunteer staff—fire fighters from around the state, camp counselors, burn unit nurses, and medical and activities staff--and major underwriters including Wisconsin Fire Service, Columbia/St. Mary’s Regional Burn Center, the University of Wisconsin Health Center and more. The purpose of the Summer Camp for Burn Injured Youth--sponsored by the Wisconsin Alliance for Fire Safety, Brookfield, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization (www.wafs.org)--is to provide a summer camping experience for youth who have endured significant burn injuries. The camp provides for the unique needs of burn injured kids so that they can participate in fun summer camp activities like boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, sports, arts and crafts, and, of course, Harley-Davidson motorcycle rides.
Mary Gengler, Executive Director of WAFS states, “We just couldn’t do it—especially this year—without the help we receive from Hal’s Harley-Davidson and the Kettle Moraine H.O.G. chapter. For so many years, they have hosted events to raise money for our camp…and they come to camp each year to interact with the kids. I just cannot say enough about what their contributions mean to us—as an organization and to our campers, the burn injured youth of Wisconsin.”
Ron Gasser of Vernon, a seven year veteran of the Hearts on Fire ride and this year’s co-chair along with his wife Melinda, noted that KMC has initiated some extreme fundraising efforts for the burn camp. He reported that three years ago, a new tradition began when one of the long haired and bearded bikers raised $2,000 to support kids at burn camp by collecting donations to shave his head during the chapter meeting. Last year, Howie Wurgler of Waukesha, chapter president, shaved his head and again raised $2k. Gasser laughs, “We were running out of hair to shave in the chapter…but this year, Jeffrey Jordan of Spring Green, Wisconsin age 17 and a burn camp participant since 1998, offered to grow his hair and shave it to raise money so that other kids could attend camp.” At the July meeting--with his mom present, the legally blind Jordan had his head shaved raising $3,183. Five male chapter members received dare challenges to dress up as cheerleaders for Jordan; they raised around $700. And finally, Chris Meyers of West Allis--a member who had not cut his hair or beard in over 20 years—shaved and raised $3,200 for the burn camp.
With an annual goal of $20k, the chapter is constantly working to bring in money for this cause with internal chapter dare challenges and public events such as the Big Bend “Party in the Park” fundraiser held on August 16th which included a ride-in bike, car and tractor show, and an old time baseball tournament.
“Burn camp is an inspiration to these kids—emotionally and mentally,” notes Gasser. “For one week out of the year, they are not outcasts; they do not have to worry about covering their scars or sitting in the back of the room. Seeing what these kids endure really tugs at your heartstrings. But what is really special is that despite the awful pain and long term suffering that they have experienced, their unrestrained excitement and absolute joy at getting to ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is indescribable…. You just want to do everything in your power to support these kids…and to make the gleeful smiles and frolicking laughter happen again and again…”
Hal’s Harley-Davidson in New Berlin was founded in 1978 by motorcycle enthusiast Hal Topel, with a business philosophy of “service first” and the goal of treating customers as family. Hal’s son, Kirk Topel, who shares his father’s love of motorcycles, is a second generation owner, continuing the dealership’s focus on developing lasting customer relationships through exceptional service. In 1990, Hal’s became the first Milwaukee-area H-D dealership to offer Buell motorcycles--prior to the 1998 H-D corporate acquisition of Buell. In support of the performance motorcycle enthusiast, the dealership features a unique Speed and Machine Shop specializing in performance bikes for racing or recreational enjoyment. Hal’s dealership is very active within the community; their full calendar of events and other information can be found on the web at www.HalsHD.com.
By Denise Harris with Harris Marketing Group.