Rich Zeier and his wife, Ginny, have ridden their Harley-Davidson motorcycles all over North America, from the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to Ontario’s Horseshoe Valley.
But there’s one ride close to home that stands out for the Holtsville couple: The one ending at the pediatric unit of Winthrop-University Hospital.
They joined about 70 fellow members of the Huntington Station-based L.I. Harley Riders club for its annual ride to the Mineola hospital Saturday morning, delivering Easter-themed gifts to some of the youngest patients in residence.
“It’s something that we look forward to every year,” said Rich Zeier, 64, as leather-clad riders around him pulled books, Play-Doh and stuffed animals from their bikes.
“It’s nice to be able to give back to people who aren’t as fortunate,” added Ginny Nugent-Zeier, 64, who was holding a stuffed rabbit with purple fur that matched the pinstriping on her Harley-Davidson Switchback.
Pat Mayerhofer, who came to pick up her daughter from the hospital, marveled at the expanse of leather and chrome parked in front of the main entrance.
“It’s not the usual image you have of motorcyclists,” she said of the event, which she called “a great idea.”
Members of the roughly 170-person club have been making the trip to the hospital annually for 15 years. The goal remains the same: bring holiday cheer to ailing children.
For Stephan Efthimiades, 56, of Wantagh, that meant riding to the hospital Saturday with a bunny costume under his leather chaps.
“A little hot, but not too bad,” he said of the get-up, as his wife handed him the rabbit head to put on before entering the pediatric ward.
The hospital “embraces all toy donations that help put smiles on the faces of our pediatric patients,” said Justin Burke, Winthrop’s director of external affairs.
Newsday wasn’t allowed to accompany the bikers into the unit or talk to the patients or their parents. But club members reported afterward that the children were thrilled by the visit.
“I like to see the smiles on their faces,” Efthimiades said. “I like to think that we brought a little joy.”