SUNSET PARK — They rode to raise awareness.
For the fourth consecutive year, Sunset Park residents and merchants who have been affected by cancer took part in the Breast Cancer Motorcycle Run.
Held on Saturday, Oct. 5, the ride raises both funds and awareness. Money raised will be donated to the Erika Roman Foundation, an organization which counts among its goals helping to find a cure for cancer.
At 10 a.m., the group gathered at Cotton Hustle, 5012 Third Ave., a local screen printing and clothing store, to have breakfast. At around 12 p.m., the bikers made their way to the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in Manhattan to visit people battling the disease, providing them a meal and other perks to help brighten their day.
Jose Rosario, one of the event organizers, a founder of Hustle Kingz BK riding team and part owner of Cotton Hustle, said that this was the most successful year to date.
“It went really well,” he said. “We probably had double the amount of people that we had from last year in terms of motorcyclists. We went from a small group of guys to filling up a few parking spots the second year to now we had to close down a whole city block because the bikes and cars couldn’t fit. Every year is a learning process.”
According to Rosario, Israel Diaz, who runs Freedom Bloxx, came up with the idea of the ride seven years ago.
“For him, it was just a group of friends who had a common enemy in cancer and on a day in October, they would get together and ride around in pink, just to spread the word,” Rosario said. “Three years into it, we saw what he was doing and asked if we could partner with him. We grew up together and he said of course, so we were able to come together as a little group that turned into a bigger group.”
Because Cotton Hustle gives Rosario, whose mother-in-law and stepmother have both battled the disease, the ability to print shirts, he has been able to raise funds by selling ones that say things like “We fight” or “F Cancer.”
“Raising money [for the cause] is a great thing,” Rosario said, stressing that his friend’s “dream of riding around with the fellas turned into something big because now he’s riding with tons of people.”
Many of the organizers and riders have been affected by cancer, Rosario stressed.
“[Diaz’s] grandmother had cancer and another gentleman he knew, Rico, his mother passed away from cancer so the two were together and they were like, ‘Let’s honor our family and say hey make yourself aware of this crazy disease.’ It got bigger than what they expected,” he explained.
The riders got invaluable assistance from the local precinct, Rosario added. “Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez and Officer Gerber Fernandez played a major role in teaching me how to make this event better by applying for permits rather than just being a bunch of guys being hooligans in the street.”
Riders’ final destination was the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge where they distributed the food that donors had prepared, joining forces with volunteers from Mel’s Blessings catering company which Rosario said, “goes to the hospital to cook for the plasma patients that can’t have food from the outside. They came early to cook so when the donated food came, the patients could eat together like a family.”
Another attendee who attends cosmetology school was able to get her program director to be in attendance with several students who were willing to participate.
“They were doing facials, massages, hair and it was a really cool experience,” he said. “A lot of the patients I spoke to were like, ‘I never had my eyelashes done before.’ It was heartwarming to see them participating. They weren’t riding but they found a way to do something positive for the patients.”
For Rosario, the event is always worthwhile.
“Just watching people want to take out of their personal time to give back means a lot and says a lot about people,” he said. “I’m not rich. I find spiritual gratification when I know I did something that helps someone. Thats a reward in itself.”