The very phrase "motorcycle club" calls up visions of hardened, tattooed biceps, leather chaps and growling chrome for some, but for at least one area club, there is also a softer side to the ride.
Since its founding in 2011, the Finksburg-based motorcycle club, The Unchained Few MC, has focused on helping family and children with disabilities get through life a little easier.
On Saturday, the club will hold its sixth annual Mitchell Ride for Children, a fundraiser named for the boy whom the club helped with its inaugural ride, according to club member Keith Davis — bikers might know him by his road name, "Big Dawg."
"This year we are doing a tour of Carroll, Frederick and Howard counties," Davis said. "We have three stops that we will be hitting. The Upper Deck in Mount Airy, Vanessa's Corner Pub in Taylorsville, at the corner of Md. 26 and Md. 27, and then the Woodstock Inn, which is off Woodstock Road."
The ride will start at the American Legion Post 223 in Sykesville — registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and kickstands up at 10:30 a.m. — with the tour returning to the Legion at 4 p.m. for an after-party, according to Davis, and there will be festivities sprinkled throughout the ride as well.
"We have fun games and prizes at each stop. We do an Indian leg wrestling competition at one of the stops, a card game-type thing at one of the stops and then a wet T-shirt contest at one of the stops," Davis said. "If you can make it, come check it out."
The after-party at the Legion will include live music, raffles and other food and prizes, Davis said, and nonriders are welcome to attend for $25 at the door.
All of the proceeds will assist The Unchained Few in helping more children next year, according to Davis.
"What we do is a pay-it-forward-type thing, so everything we raise this year is going to the kids we're going to help next year," he said. "Last year's ride went toward the three children we are helping this year."
One of the three children the club is helping is Noah Ketterman, of Hampstead, who turned 10 years old on July 4.
"Noah has autism and epilepsy and an underlying genetic problem called mitochondrial disease," said Cheryl Ketterman, Noah's mother. "He has a lot of difficulty understanding what people say and he needs something to help him communicate."
With the proceeds of last year's Mitchell Ride, the club has been able to purchase a laptop with special communications software for Noah.
"We feel so blessed and so happy for Noah and so grateful to this group," Cheryl said. "I didn't even know about them until his occupational therapist came to me and asked if I would mind if they filled out an application for him."
The Unchained Few usually select the children they will help a month or two before the annual ride, but take applications throughout the year, according to Davis.
The second child being helped this year is Manzo Knight, of Sykesville, who Davis said uses a wheelchair. The club is helping Manzo's family put a down payment on a wheelchair-accessible van.
The semi-viral sharing of a photo led a family friend to submit an application for the third child, 10-year-old Alyssa Rhine, of Middle River, according to her mother, Colleen Rhine. Alyssa has multiple bone deformities in her legs that have necessitated 17 surgeries, most recently in September and November, which Colleen said kept her from selling her Girl Scout Cookies.
"I took a picture of her with a sign saying, 'I'm in the hospital could you please help me with my Girl Scout Cookies,' and I put it on Facebook," Colleen said. "A friend of mine reposted it who happened to have a friend that is part of a different motorcycle club, and they got involved in helping sell Alyssa's Girl Scout Cookies."
The other motorcycle club passed on Alyssa's other wish to The Unchained Few: Although her grandmother had painted her room in a cute, baby animal motif when Alyssa was born, it was no longer suitable for the young lady she has become.
"Now she is getting older and wanted a more grown-up girl room," Davis said. "That was her dream to have her room redone. Her mom couldn't afford to do it for her."
Davis led the team that not only refurnished Alyssa's room, but modified the closet to be more accessible for her.
"They were so generous, they repainted her walls, put in new carpeting, and bought her new furniture and just elevated it to be a young lady's room," Colleen said.
Colleen said she knew that motorcycle clubs had a charitable bent, but that it was a wonderful surprise to be helped by them.
"I think motorcycle people get such a bad rap, and most of them do such wonderful things for charity and kids," she said. "For Alyssa to be a recipient is just amazing for us. We're really blessed by it."