Motorcyclists back Special Olympics

LIHU’E — Thunder shattered the Sunday quiet in Lihu’e.

But it was actually the roar of about 150 street motorcycles heralding the start of the convoy benefiting the Kaua’i Special Olympics from the parking lot of the Kaua’i Memorial Convention Hall.

Councilman Mel Rapozo, one of the original riders for the Special Olympics Ride, announced that the course would take the riders from the parking lot, up Rice Street, and end in Waimea.

Rapozo, who had rented a motorcycle for the event, said, “It’s just for a day, and it’s to help the Special Olympics, so it’s for a good cause.”

Once in Waimea, Rapozo said there would be a 15-minute break before the riders head back to Lihu’e via Koloa where another 15 minute break awaited them.

The annual ride attracts a variety of motorcycle enthusiasts who take the time to enjoy a Sunday ride while helping to raise funds for the Kaua’i Special Olympics program.

One of the riders, a coach for the Kaua’i Soccer Association that is in the midst of their playoffs, found out about the ride at a party, Saturday night, and couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to ride before getting to the soccer fields.

Jocelyn Barriga, who serves as the Kaua’i Special Olympics coordinator, was thrilled with the support shown by the community for the Special Olympic athletes, some of whom were out helping Barriga with the preparation of food for lunch.

William Burwell, a Special Olympian who took pride in announcing that he will celebrate his 61st birthday, was one of the athletes on hand. Burwell is currently practicing with the Special Olympics team at the Lihu’e Bowling Center for the upcoming Holiday Classic that will be coming up on O’ahu on Dec. 2-4.

Barriga said Kaua’i will have athletes competing in both the bowling and basketball matches that will be featured at that state-level event.

Burwell, while awaiting more tasks, extracted a ticket from his pocket, “See this? It’s for lunch. El gave this to me,” he announced proudly.

“We have more riders than last year,” she chirped, although missing her friend, Shelly Gerrardo who was at the event for the past two years.

Gerrardo is currently enjoying her new baby, but Barriga is awaiting her return to the program.

In addition to funds generated by the registration for the ride, a wide variety of goods and services attracted bids in the Silent Auction section that opened up shortly after the registration.

Additionally, a commemorative T-shirt (orange for Halloween? Or was that for Harley Davidson?) was available for a $20 donation.

Lunch by the culinary crews at Mark’s Place and Contemporary Flavors was also on the agenda, and was the motivation to bring the riders back from their westside jaunt.

Outside the convention hall, classic car enthusiast Harvey Maeda, who accompanied the convoy in his Sting Ray, mulled the figures while scanning the parking lot.

“There must be close to a million dollars worth of motorcycles, here,” he said, pointing out one model that he said was valued at $40,000.

Tom Leighton of Two Wheels recently purchased a red custom Harley Davidson touting 24-carat gold leaf as part of its flames, and said that particular model is valued at about $20,000.

“This one is going to be my baby for life,” he said.

He guesstimated that the million-dollar figure might be close as a lot of the bikes had values ranging around the $25,000-mark.

Law enforcement officers have traditionally supported the Special Olympics program, and Hank Barriga, Jocelyn’s husband, headed up this year’s Ride effort, one rider pointing out the special bike Barriga would be riding this year.

During the recent Cop on Top fundraiser, the Special Olympics program raised $250,000 statewide with Kaua’i leading the charge with the greatest amount raised by its corps of volunteers and the Safeway Store in Waipouli.

Jocelyn Barriga is also contemplating another fun event in the future: a Casino Night for possibly March 2006.

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