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Their hearts are as big as their rides

See more photos from the event HERE
The thunder could be heard throughout south Queens, and much like Santa’s sleigh bells, the vroom-vroom of over 500 motorcycles meant joy for many children.
The 30th annual Independent Bikers Toys for Tots (IBTFT) toy run set out from Forest Park on Sunday, October 24 – and, like for the past 29 years, the big-hearted bikers donated their time and efforts to the children of the Bernard Fineson Developmental Center.
But this year, since the residents were moved from the Howard Beach location, the destination was the Glen Oaks campus of Creedmoor.
The yearly event began with 17 motorcycles, and has since grown into a major undertaking, with volunteers working for three months leading up to the run.
“They care about the kids who don’t have what we take for granted,” said Carmine Antonelle, who, along with Dean McNamee, coordinates the family-oriented event.
Though the totals are still being tabulated, Antonelle told The Courier that 99 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to the kids.
“This is as grass-roots as it gets,” he said. “It’s all about the kids.”
Carol Stretmoyer, who was at Forest Park with her dogs Bandit and Sweetpea, has been going to the event for 30 years “for the excitement, for the bikes and for the kids.”
And though the toy run is the biggest event – and garners by far the most attention – the bikers give back all year long.
“We’ve sent kids to Florida,” explained McNamee. “[And for the efforts] in 1996 we received the Points of Light Foundation award from President Clinton [among other honors and awards].”
Since 1981, the IBTFT has given the Fineson Centers new basketball and Shuffleboard courts, two above-ground pools, a pavilion with access ramps, restrooms, barbecue grills and lawn furniture, exercise equipment, electrical hospital beds, wheelchairs, recreation room equipment and furnishings. In 1999, they helped the residents of the Bernard Fineson Center at the Hillside facility realize their dream of a greenhouse.
According to the Director of Volunteer Services for the Bernard Fineson Developmental Center, over 85 percent of donations they receive are from the IBTFT.
“The kids’ reactions were off the chart on Sunday,” said Antonelle. “They’re probably still smiling.”
To learn more about the Independent Bikers Toys for Tots, or to donate, visit www.ibtft.org.

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