Biker Bunny pays visit to kids at hospital

Dominick Mazza of the LI Harley Riders, dressed

Dominick Mazza of the LI Harley Riders, dressed as the Easter Bunny, rides to Winthrop Hospital to visit children as part of the annual Easter Basket Ride for Hospitalized Children in Mineola. (March 30, 2013) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Normally on Easter weekend, Luke Lang would be at home in North Bellmore, scavenging for hidden plastic eggs stocked with candy. Then he'd try to face a big holiday meal with his family.

But this year, the 5-year-old is confined to the pediatric ward of Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola. He's been there since Thursday, when he was diagnosed with leukemia, the day before his dad's 42nd birthday.

After what's been an emotional few days, the Langs on Saturday enjoyed a welcome distraction: an Easter Bunny -- clad in leather chaps, a vest and a bandanna -- and about 60 Harley riders descended upon the pediatric ward, bearing stuffed animals, toys and candy.

"It's the most humbling experience. . . . Thank you from the bottom of my heart," said Luke's dad, Richard Lang, as he fought back tears. "He's been waiting for this all day."

The Biker Bunny and his clique, which sometimes includes more than 100 riders, are a hit with the kids in the ward every year, said Nicole Almeida, director of the hospital's Child Life Program, designed to help kids and families cope with the emotional and developmental stresses of hospitalization. This is the 10th year the Long Island Harley Riders -- formerly the Lighthouse Harley Owners Group -- have ridden from the Nathan Hale VFW Post in Huntington Station to hand out treats to kids who won't be home for Easter.

"One reason we do it is the children shouldn't be in the hospital on a holiday, or any other day," said Fred Hartmann, Long Island Harley Riders president. "It's the smiles. That's why we're here."

As the Biker Bunny visited each child in the ward and posed for pictures, Harley riders strolled through the halls with gifts, their leather gear and boots creaking, to visit patients in their rooms. Others played with kids in a bright, colorful activity area, where Easter eggs were hidden in plain sight.

"It's just nice to see the smiles on the kids' faces," said Harley owner David Triebs. "It makes you feel good."

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