The sound of rolling thunder crept loudly into a roar against a bright blue sky at Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Friday, marking the beginning of the closing ceremonies for the 2014 Special Olympics Michigan Summer Games.
Barking exhaust and wonder, the crescendo of noise drew an instant crowd that rushed into the stadium, curious as to what could be creating the cacophony. Instead of a mighty tempest or stampede of wild beasts, it was the powerful, growling engines of 152 bikers taking part in the Moose Lodge Rev-It-Up Ride to benefit Special Olympics Michigan.
“Its a great organization,” said Greg McCarty, who biked in from Davidson. “It’s only a part of fundraising efforts for Special Olympics, but its an integral part.”
McCarty said this year, the Moose Riders raised over $15,000 in pledges for the games from their friends and family.
Moose Lodges from across the midwest organized a group of riders that came to Mount Pleasant in a parade of chrome and steel, and rode directly into the stadium by the north endzone. Patches on their jackets bore the names of cities in Michigan, Illinois. Looking with a close eye, those watching the spectacle could pick out their hometowns by rider – places like Bay City, Kalamazoo, Davidson, Durand, Toledo and Westland.
As the bikers rode in to Sammy Hagar’s indispensable gear-head anthem, “I Can’t Drive 55,” the athletes in attendance lit up with glee, reacting with awe as the metallic behemoths lined up three rows deep.
Halting at a stop, the bikers were immediately swarmed by eager athletes, making a strange sight as large men with leather jackets and skull chains grinned wide smiles when meeting their fans.
Debunking the stereotype of their tough-looking exteriors, the bikers – adorned with beards that could cleave a someone in two – the Moose Riders warmly accepted requests for autographs.
“It’s all about the kids, they love it,” said Dowagiac native Mike Amidon, while furiously signing his name like a rock star.
Cindy Jasper said she has been bringing her son, Estevan Jasper-Belmontes, from St. Joseph for several years and has seen the Moose Riders event grow larger each year. Estevan and his friend Jacob Munger, also of St. Joseph, said in unison that the bikers were “awesome.”
The Moose Riders are recognized as a recreational motorcycling activity groups comprised of members of the Loyal Order of Moose and Women of the Moose. Their primary purpose is to recognize their members’ passion for motorcycling while supporting community programs.
The group uses motorcycling as a way to provide a positive community service outlet for Moose members. McCarty said much of the Moose’s actions are directed toward helping the elderly and children.
Phil Gray of Dowagiac has been coming for the last five, and said being able to make the kids happy was worth all of the bike maintenance and hard work in the world.