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Riders show holiday spirit in July motorcycle ride

July 26, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - More than 90 motorcyclists, Santa Claus among them, roared onto the American Legion grounds in St. Thomas Sunday afternoon at the end of the first Christmas in July ride.

Starting at the M&S Harley-Davidson dealership in Chambersburg, Pa., the group was escorted by a policeman on a motorcycle, followed by the God Bless America Color Guard.

The ride was organized by the Keystone Chapter of ABATE, Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education, as a benefit for the local chapter of the Salvation Army. As the bikers arrived at the Legion grounds, they handed the organizers either a $10 fee or a new toy.

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The back of a nearby bright red pickup truck quickly filled with GI Joe figures, Barbie dolls, baby dolls and accessories, Winnie the Pooh toys, and toy airplanes, which the Salvation Army will donate to needy families at Christmas, organizers said.

Santa wore his traditional red, fur-trimmed hat and pants with a Hawaiian shirt, and arrived on his Harley-Davidson Heritage springer with his wife riding on the back. Also known as Ken Hite, a technician for Sprint, Santa said the ride was "wonderful, excellent."

With his long, white hair and white beard, Hite looked the part, and said he has played Santa many times, but never before in July.

Club members assisting at the grounds wore Santa's Helpers badges.

Elton Ensor, 79, of Warfordsburg, Pa., a member of the color guard, said he has been leading the God Bless America ride to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., for 10 years.

A U.S. Navy Seal in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Ensor said that on this year's visit to the VA hospital, the WWII veterans were asked to stand up, and only three of them did.

"There aren't many of us left," he said.

He was happy to ride for the Salvation Army, he said, because it is a good cause, and "the Salvation Army did more for us veterans than anybody."

Stacey Barber of Fayetteville, Pa., who handles products for ABATE, said organizers were pleased with the turnout and hope the event "will be bigger and better next year."

The Salvation Army helped her husband, John Barber, when he lost everything in a fire a few years ago, she added.

Kim Truett of Orrtanna, Pa., secretary for the Keystone Chapter of ABATE, said the organization educates the public about safety by presenting programs in schools about motorcycle safety and awareness.

ABATE member Brenda Englerth, who with her husband, Tom, helped coordinate the event, said the chapter hopes to make the Christmas in July ride an annual event for the Salvation Army.

"They do a lot of grass-roots charity work, and we wanted to do what we could for them," she said.

Of the bikers, she said, "Everyone shows up in black leather, but they come from all walks of life."

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