Santa’s sleigh sounded a little different.
With the rumble of dozens of motorcycles, Christmas came early to the Ronald McDonald House in New Hyde Park.
Riders with the Suffolk County Harley Owners Group (HOG) made their sixth annual trek with bags of gifts from Suffolk County to the facility on Saturday, which houses families with children undergoing hospital care.
“Children are children, and when they see all of these gentlemen coming in on their motorcycles and bringing bags of toys, their eyes light up,” said Theresa Brucculeri, a member of the board of directors of the Ronald McDonald House with four decades of experience raising money for the charity.
The house, located just feet from Cohen Children’s Medical Center, is more than a convenient room near a hospital — it’s somewhere families can depend on a hot meal at the end of the day and camaraderie with families undergoing similar circumstances, Brucculeri said.
“You can imagine what the families are going through at this point,” Brucculeri said. “It’s just the worst time of their lives, and to see those little children smiling and happy — it’s everything."
A Christmas-themed Coca-Cola truck parked outside the house provided the holiday soundtrack for the gift giving. Inside, a table full of toys lit up the Great Room of the Ronald McDonald House, delivered after a 45-minute ride from Suffolk County Harley-Davidson in Oakdale.
It wasn’t long before children were taking their pick of the selection — from construction vehicles and stuffed animals to board games and action figures — before sitting on Santa Claus' lap a few weeks ahead of Christmas.
Danyla, 3, was there for his brother, Mursal, who is battling issues with anemia. He picked out a toy he planned to give to his brother, according to his grandmother, Kamrun Rozi of Port Washington.
“It’s good for the children. It makes them happy,” Rozi said.
Larry Ackerman from Brooklyn is living at the Ronald McDonald House with his wife and plans to bring two of his children, ages 3 and 8, soon. His youngest daughter, 1-month-old Esther, is scheduled to have open-heart surgery after dealing with complications in the first weeks of her life.
He said Saturday’s effort was “very uplifting,” even for the parents.
“I saw a lot of people celebrating,” Ackerman said. “It’s not all gloom, there’s some sunshine.”
Nick Nigro, the road captain for Suffolk County HOG who started the toy drive, said the initiative has grown year by year, relying on flyers, social media and word-of-mouth to generate the donations that inspire holiday cheer.
“The biker community always gives,” Nigro said. “If we put a smile on a kid’s face at this time of the year, and they’re here, that’s all that matters.”