Autism: a brain-based disorder that generally appears in early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people, and in using language and abstract concepts.
Story by Tom Christian with Randy Twells, Photos by Tom Christian
It takes a person with a big heart and integrity with absolute love for family with a drive from heaven- to meet the challenge of nurturing a child with autism- or organizing a Ride for Autism. After meeting one of the nicest men I have met in a long time and his wife I knew why this was the 9th Annual Ride for Autism.
Anthony and Pat De La Rosa with their right hand man Doug and his wife Jennifer Marrone were a dynamic double duo for this event. Doug was the MC and did a super job- but not to be outdone, Anthony was everywhere getting the event in order. Their two spouses were the backbone of the day. The De La Rosas’ daughter said the Pledge of Allegiance and the crowd cheered her on. Brissa was diagnosed with autism and was the heart of this event. She captured everyone’s heart with her smile and charisma.
To start the day the weather was cool and great for riding and the event. The bikes rolled in by the hundreds filling the Laidlaw’s Harley-Davidson parking lot where the Society of Riders MC volunteers directed the riders & bikes, and overflowed to a lot across the street too that the business there was kind enough to volunteer for the start of this Ride. This year set a record for the most bikes at this event.
I walked though Laidlaw’s dealership a few times before running into the owner Bob Laidlaw. He is a great guy to chat with. He loves his history with Harley and that he has been successfully in business for almost 60 yrs. The dealership is a big store with an upstairs area too, and there’s something for everyone, from clothes to boots to upgrading your bike a little to a lot. They have a service department second to none with some of the happiest faces around.
As I walked around taking photos, meeting everyone and trying to get names to faces it started to warm up a little and time for water, and maybe some of the nice simple yet nutritious quick-start breakfast items put out for the ride participants under the canopy out front. Actors and this year’s Co-Grand Marshals Dean McDermott and Ian Ziering (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) arrived; the place really came alive with them on stage, and of course the gals wanted their photos taken with them. I volunteered to take a lot of photos with their cells, everyone was happy. I hope. I had time to window shop and take photos of the volunteers working the sign-in tables and clipboards and chat with all the great people that showed up. The volunteers are so needed and really put themselves out to make this event a big success.
But now it was kickstands up and time to get it started.
The traffic control motorcycle officers got together for me to snap a photo of all of them before they hit the big road to Original Mike’s in Santa Ana. Anthony rode Brissa on his bike, and Pat was on her own bike but it would not start. The boys from Laidlaw’s Service Dept. got her bike up and running in no time, and the huge group was off to Original Mikes. Many women riders were here on their own bikes as well as the guys. As the hundreds of bikes rolled out of Laidlaw’s the sound was awesome; I followed them out onto the highway.
The roundabout route took us up to the 210 and east along the base of the San Gabriel Mtns. then south on the 57 through rolling hills; 51.2 miles went by and soon the bikes poured into the parking lot at Original Mike’s and filled up fast. Everyone helped each other park making it a safe and very fun event and fun to watch. There were a few clubs whose members came out and were enjoying the event with laughter and friendship.
As I worked my way into Original Mike’s it was packed with bikers enjoying their Ride lunch and the entertainment from the band playing on stage. Angel City Devils was killing the house with some old school music and had a special drummer join them for a song or two. He was a young man with autism known as “Drummer Rock”– Logan Shepard showed his ability to get around those drums. He was very good.
The drawing of the raffles was a sight to see with Dean McDermott, Ian Ziering and Doug Marrone on stage feeding off of each other with jokes as they made the crowd laugh. Everyone with tickets in hand waiting for their number to be called out. The winners would have their happy dance on when walking up to the stage to receive the prize and have a few words and laugh. A big raffle prize was a special quilt made just for this event, with colorful autism symbols in the fabric reflecting the cause it was supporting. There was also the 50/50 drawing with a prize of $280 to the drawing winner and then the other $280 to the charity proceeds pot.
Walking around some more, I noted the saddle barstools that reminded me of the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson Hole Wyoming. There were a couple of gals sitting on them enjoying a cold one so I had to snap a photo. Outside, there were the displays & exhibits by the 501c3 organizations that Ride for Autism was benefiting this year— Autism Society of America GLB/SGV (Greater Long Beach & San Gabriel Valley), Designated Exceptional Services for Independence (D.E.S.I.) and TACA (Talk About Curing Autism). Passionate people doing such great work. This year there were also some motorcycle vendors too! The day wound up with much good being accomplished.
So how are the funds used by the groups that receive them? Well here’s a description right from the ride committee: “100% of the proceeds go directly to families touched by autism. The funds we raise go to enriching autistic children’s lives, providing families discounted seminars, free evaluations, and therapy, and helping individuals affected by the autism spectrum.” So they are grateful for all of your support, and we look forward to the day when it is declared no longer needed to have the Ride for Autism… since that would be the day autism is declared CURED!
Til then, we’ll see you for the 10th Annual Ride for Autism!
Note from the Ride Committee, on 2016 results: “Since donations and pledges are still coming in, a total to date is difficult to determine. However, our projection is that this year’s fundraising efforts will net approximately $20K. It is important to note that we have lost corporate sponsorships this year, attributed to budget cuts and changes in corporate leadership. These types of donors make a big difference in the amounts raised. We hope your readers help us gain new relationships for 2017.”