Despite the motorcycles, muscles and leather of the Unchained Few, the motorcycle club-turned-nonprofit isn't big or bad — they're raising money for needy children.
On Saturday, the fourth annual Mitchell Ride for Children will draw motorcycle clubs and enthusiasts from across the area on a group trip through Carroll County and parts of Howard County. The day-long event features activities at scheduled stops before culminating in an after party at the American Legion in Sykesville, all the while collecting funds for charity.
Mark Salerno, organizer for the event, said he expects Saturday morning's registration — which takes place from 9:30 to 10:30 — to see between 150 and 200 sign-ups. Through registration costs, donations and a silent auction, the group drums up the funds for a group gift that is revealed to the recipient family at the start of the ride.
"We like for all the riders and participants to know why they came and what their money is going toward," said Salerno. "It sets up the good feeling of the entire day at registration."
This year's recipient family, Trish Bailey and her daughter Ashley, were selected through an application process. The gift they will receive Saturday is a surprise, Salerno said, but past Mitchell Ride gifts include a minivan to transport a child to treatments, an adapted tricycle and swing set, a lift for an electric chair and a wheelchair-friendly bath system.
The first ride raised money for a home elevator for Mitchell Sylvain, a child born with a brain injury who later manifested a seizure disorder, among other complications, according to his aunt, Elaine Stengel. And the idea for the first ride came from conversations between Stengel and Salerno.
"I was talking to Mark and said something like, 'I wish there was a group that could do a fundraiser to help out my sister,' and we both sort of looked at each other and he said, 'Well, why don't we?'" Stengel said.
Since then, the event has snowballed, she said.
Last year Greg Sylvain, Mitchell's father, borrowed a motorcycle to ride in the event with the same bikers who donated money to his son years earlier. Stengel, who said she's "not big into motorcycles," has also stayed involved and this year will donate several silent auction baskets.
"From the beginning, the group didn't know me from a hole in the wall, but were so willing to give their time, talents and money to support my family," Stengel said. "These guys with their leather and big bikes get kind of a bad rep. People think they're mean and bad, but that's so not the case."
The families helped in past years regularly return to future races, Salerno said, adding that the club has become "a sort of family itself," extending its arms to include everyone involved.
D'Alan Baugh, whose Unchained Few nickname is D'evil, came to last year's Mitchell Ride not knowing anyone. A longtime motorcycle rider, he was intrigued by the idea of a group ride, so he signed up. He hasn't left since.
"I always say, I showed up as a stranger and left with a bunch of new, great friends," said Baugh, who has since become an official member of the Unchained Few. "If you're fortunate, I believe you should give back and do things for other people. This was a nice outlet for that type of thing. I get to bike and give back at the same time."
This year, the group plans to leave from the Sykesville American Legion at 11 a.m. and travel to Vanessa's Corner Pub in Taylorsville, where the scheduled activity is Indian leg wrestling — arm wrestling on the ground with your legs, Salerno said.
From there, they ride to the Woodstock Inn, just inside Howard County, where a wet T-shirt contest will take place. The contest raised $835 in 15 minutes last year, Salerno said, making it one of the biggest money makers of the day's events.
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Sure, maybe it's not your average charity event, Salerno said: "But hey, we're bikers."