Riding to Remember at ALS motorcycle rally

AU SABLE FORKS - Motorcycle enthusiasts will soon have an excellent opportunity to collectively enjoy a scenic ride through the Adirondacks and a barbecue dinner, all while they support some neighbors in need.

The third annual ALS motorcycle rally and poker run is scheduled for May 30, sponsored by the Mountain Riders motorcycle club.

The event originated in 2007 as a benefit for the family of Johnny Nixon, a star athlete at AuSable Valley Central School who was diagnosed with ALS in October 2006 at age 28.

"We've known the Nixons for a while," said Julie Santamaria, the Mountain Riders member who organizes the event each year along with her sister, Jennifer Furnia, and friend Kelly Murphy. "Just knowing how much the medical expenses were for these families, we knew we had to help out somehow."

In addition to Nixon's family, proceeds from the event went to the ALS foundation and to the Jay/Black Brook Youth Commission in his honor.

"When John was alive and he got to see the motorcycles leave, that was one of the happiest moments during his illness," said Santamaria.

Though Nixon passed away in December of 2007, the club has continued to hold the event in his memory, raising funds for the Youth Commission and families dealing with an ALS diagnosis.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a degenerative neurological disease that progressively reduces the ability to use muscles in the body. Eighty percent of people with the disease die within five years of being diagnosed.

Last year's event, while slightly less attended than the first, still had 70 bikers in attendance and managed to raise $8,000 for the cause. This year's proceeds will primarily be distributed to the families of three local people with ALS.

"It's amazing; just the number of people that don't get on a bike," said Santamaria. "They're just there to see the bikes take off."

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