Riding for dollars

M.V. Harley Riders donate to the Red Stocking Fund.

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Santa Mike Fuss, AKA ‘Panhead,’ leads the start of the ride. – Emily Drazen

Joyful Noise

’Twas a month before Christmas and through all six towns

Restaurants were shuttered, stores were closed down

The Island was enjoying a much-deserved break

From the tourists of summer and the noise that they make

The locals were nestled all snug in their homes

Happy to have some time all alone

Mom dressed in pjs, Dad in ripped jeans

It was winter — who cared how “Vineyardy” one might seem

When all of a sudden there arose such a roar

It seemed like an earthquake had just hit our shores.

The revving of engines as they started en masse

Made everyone wonder what was about to elapse

I sprang from the couch to see what caused the racket

Ran to the porch without grabbing a jacket

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a squadron of Harley riders in their best leather gear

At the head of the pack on a fresh-painted bike

Was none other than Santa — a.k.a. Panhead Mike

Unfortunately Prez Rainman was sidelined this time

But wife Lisa, as always, took her place in the line

Some men rode alone, some with significant others

Among the riders were the injured president’s brothers

Cross the Island they flew on their annual mission

For three decades now, it’s been a tradition

To gather donations for the Red Stocking Fund

So that Christmas can be celebrated by everyone

Every child shall find something under the tree.

Happy holidays for all — every family in need

So to help the Red Stocking fill up their shelves

Checks large and small are collected by Hog-riding elves

The money donated will go to defray

The cost of bringing joy to all on Christmas Day

Starting in Oak Bluffs they rode until dark

Through Edgartown, V.H., West Tis. and Chilmark

Then down they raced to their starting point

The P..A Club was to be their partying joint

A feast awaited the returning crowd

After a few drinks, it got rather loud.

But the party was well earned — they’d collected ten grand

They danced through the night to a rock and roll band

As reward for their efforts, they downed many beers

And vowed to return the following year

The mission is simple: to ensure there are toys

On Christmas morning for all girls and boys

Other towns may enjoy the sounds of bells ringing

The wind in the pines, and the carolers singing.

On M.V. when folks sit down for lobster and chowder

The music of Christmas is considerably louder

But when you look out your window and think, “What the heck?!”

Put up with the noise, and write out a check.

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There’s a bit of poetic license here. The MV Harley Riders actually collect the money before the annual run. But it’s not too late to make a donation.

Every year the Red Stocking Fund distributes toys, clothing, and books for 300 to 400 children. All donations come from the community. Along with the toys, the fund provides warm clothing and books purchased with the financial donations. Every kid gets a book and some art supplies, donated by local businesses. The toys are given to families in need. Recipients are generally referred to the fund by social service providers, schools, or churches. The organizers maintain the anonymity of the families they serve.

There are numerous ways to take part in the effort. People can send a check, drop off toys at the boxes, or call to arrange a drop-off of gifts. Some individuals or businesses choose to sponsor a child. Anyone interested in this option will be provided with the age and gender of a child in need. They can purchase either clothing (sizes provided) or toys (from the child’s wish list), or both.

The Harley Riders, who are responsible for the bulk of the contributions, have been supporting the effort since their formation in the 1970s.

For many years, Oak Bluffs resident Henrietta Gallagher donated a number of bicycles to the Red Stocking Fund. After she died earlier this year, President Rainman (Rene Mathieu) and his wife Lisa decided to continue the tradition by purchasing 14 bikes to donate to the cause. Red Stocking co-chair Susie Wallo says that bicycles are always needed. People can donate new or very gently used bikes by calling one of the two chairpeople.

“It’s the $5 or $10 checks that are really our bread and butter,” says Wallo. “What’s really wonderful is that some of the folk who have needed us in the past are now helping out or contributing, since they’ve gotten back on their feet. Some have even sponsored kids themselves. That’s a wonderful thing to see.”

“It means a lot to me to take part in helping kids on Christmas who are less fortunate than other kids,” Mike Fuss, Santa during the annual ride, told The Times. “One mother asked me to bring the gifts to her children on Christmas morning. It was so rewarding to see firsthand what Red Stocking has done for these children.”

To make a cash donation, send a check to: The Red Stocking Fund, P.O.Box 600, Edgartown, MA 02539. To donate toys or books (new and unwrapped donations only) or to sponsor a child, call co-chairs Suzy Wallo at 508-776-6050 or Sandy Joyce at 508-776-0801. Donation boxes can also be found at various locations around the Island, including at the Vineyard Haven library.