By ANN BELCHER
Quick to stereotype, most of us don't think of motorcycle clubs and philanthropy in the same sentence. But anyone passing by to first notice the several styles of bikes at the Chautauqua County Fair this week and then stopping to ask why they were there would.
OBSERVER Photo by Ann Belcher
Ramon Ramos, flanked by fellow DK Bandits riders shows off a poster explaining the motorcycle club’s presence at the Chautauqua County Fair this week. The bikers are raising funds to pay for a specialized two-wheel hand pedal bike for a local child with Spina Bifida.
Members of the DK Bandits Motorcycle Club put in long hours at the fair this week aside from work, family and even their love of riding to give back to a local young man who shares in that love. The guys, along with their families are taking donations to get a specialized two wheel bike for 10-year-old Dustin Pawson, who was born with Spina Bifida.
An honorary member of their club, Dustin got to know the members by passing by the clubhouse on Fourth Street and chatting with them from the sidewalk. The club members, after having met Dustin's family, welcomed him in to play pool, video games, watch movies and discuss their love of "wheeling" of any type.
After learning that Dustin's family is responsible for the expensive care and maintenance of his wheelchair for everyday use, and seeing his excitement and desire to have a two wheel bike of his own, these tough exterior club members decided to work with Spoke Folk and raise the money needed to get Dustin his first two-wheel pedal bike.
Club member Ramon Ramos explained "Getting him this specialized hand pedal bike will allow him to be a little more normal and definitely become more mobile. He will probably use his bike more than his everyday wheelchair."
Dustin and his family were absent Friday as donations kept rolling in, Ramos explained, because just the day before a tire on Dustin's wheelchair broke and required maintenance.
"Dustin is just stoked about this," added Charles "Otto" Patterson.
"Besides accepting donations to get Dustin's bike, the club bought all of the T-shirts that we're selling this week and the club is not accepting any money whatsoever for itself. We're donating everything we raise towards his bike. If we don't have enough with donations and T-shirt sales, we plan on pitching in on our own whatever the remainder is to make sure he gets his bike," stated Patterson.
Giving back is nothing new to these riders as the two described. Last year the club held a fundraiser car wash at Walmart to benefit a local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter and they participate in other motorcycle and riding clubs' fundraisers wherever they go for rallies, dice runs and bike events. The members enjoyed the local Roar on the Shore last weekend in Erie, Pa., and enjoy the camaraderie that goes with those types of events. Ramos added that his ideal event would be something similar to a classic car show involving bikes. This fall, the club will be organizing a backpack drive for needy students held at Washington Park.
"We're not bad people. We all have families and jobs waiting at home for us, we simply like to ride and enjoy meeting other people who like what we do," stated Patterson.
"We go all over for bike rallies and events and like to be there to support their causes. But we like to be able to show off Dunkirk a little bit too, and put Dunkirk on the map for a change. Usually when we go out of town, we get all kinds of questions like 'Where's Dunkirk?' or 'Oh, is that near Buffalo?'"
Even their T-shirts read "Support Dunkirk."
"We truly want to have a positive impact on the community," added Patterson.
Located at the back entrance of the fairgrounds, the club has a tent set up between carnival rides and craft vendors, and their nearly full jar of donations sits among several different styles of bikes (one that includes attention-grabbing green neon lights that are lit up at night.) The lineup of bikes speaks to exactly how the club operates since it was organized no discrimination of human race or type of bike.
"Our 20-plus member club is made up of everyone - black, Caucasian, Puerto Rican and all types of bikes. It doesn't matter what you have, as long as you love to ride," stated Ramos.
"Everyone stops to look at the bikes," noted Patterson.
"But once people stop and read our poster, and figure out what we're here doing, a lot of people's reactions change. A few have been intimidated, based on us being a group of guys in motorcycle vests, but the majority of people have been in awe of what we're trying to do."
Anyone wishing to donate and help the DK Bandits get Dustin out on two wheels can still donate even after the Fair closes out on Sunday.
"Just come to our clubhouse on Fourth Street and knock on the door or ring the bell and someone will answer and assist you. Or you can stop by at our neighbor's Jenna's Fourth Street Cafe' who has been awesome about putting out posters for us," added Patterson.
"We feel really good doing this. Even my stepson has been handing out flyers while we've been here, and one guy actually put in a $50 bill after learning what we're doing. When you see someone doing something good, it changes people's thought process, and inspires you to want to do something good as well."
The reaction that these bikers are looking forward to will come when Dustin is presented with his first two-wheel bike; "I just can't wait to see the smile on Dustin's face when he gets his bike," noted Ramos.
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