Fred Hartmann, and his wife Nadine Hartmann, Santa Claus and...

Fred Hartmann, and his wife Nadine Hartmann, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, lead the Harley Riders to the children at the Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center in Dix Hills on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

An unlikely bond forms once each year between leather-vested motorcyclists and children at a psychiatric hospital in Dix Hills.

A pack of about 60 bikers from the Huntington Station-based L.I. Harley Riders started their engines Sunday at Nathan Hale VFW 1469 on West Pulaski Road before winding through local streets with the help of a police escort.

Four miles later, at the end of the journey for its 13th annual holiday toy ride, they came to a halt on the paved cul-de-sac in front of the Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center, an inpatient facility, where 44 children between the ages of 10 and 18 are currently admitted.

"The original director of the club thought this was the perfect match because motorcyclists are misunderstood. They're sort of outsiders to society and so are these kids," said Dominick Mazza, spokesman for the L.I. Harley Riders. "These kids are misunderstood. If you meet these kids, . . . [people] say, 'Oh, they have all these psychiatric problems.' But when we're with them, they're regular kids."

Many of the children at the facility, who suffer from a range of mental health issues including bipolar disorder, will be able to join their families for the holidays. For others who need to stay, having gifts presented to them is a vital part of their sense of normalcy.

"Psychiatric hospitalization for children and their families is very disruptive and tends to be a crisis for the people involved," Kathy O'Keefe, acting executive director for the center, said in an interview during the event. "Things like this remind kids that they're still kids . . . it gives them something fun and exciting and they feel cared about."

The bikers -- led by Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Fred Hartmann, 70, a retired auto body repairman from Smithtown, and his wife, Nadine Hartmann, 50, a home care physical therapist -- delivered hundreds of toys and books.

Fred Hartmann, left, Santa Claus and his wife Nadine Hartmann,...

Fred Hartmann, left, Santa Claus and his wife Nadine Hartmann, center, Mrs. Claus, carry toys into the Sagamore Children's Psychiatric Center in Dix Hills on Sunday afternoon on Nov. 23, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

The children will be able to sift through the presents and create a wish-list of what they'd like to receive, according to Mazza.

The gifts -- ranging from board games to a book filled with Lewis Carroll illustrations to National Geographic magazines -- were all donated by members of the 180-strong Harley Riders. Local Girl Scout troops will come in before Christmas to wrap the presents, which will be set under a Christmas tree and given to the children on Dec. 25.

Kathy Porter, 60, a retired nurse's aide from Bay Shore, rode on a black 2010 three-wheel Harley-Davidson trike to help drop off the gifts.

"It makes you happy that you can give to them because some of them are here for the holidays," Porter said. "Their faces just light up."

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