Newark has got the Gooch.
For the second consecutive year, thousands of motorcyclists will pour into the city's Ironbound Wednesday night for the 25th annual Gooch's Garlic Run, a 28-mile bike ride that benefits individuals with serious illnesses.
The run, organized by law enforcement motorcycle club Blue Knights New Jersey Chapter IX and named for retired Andover Township Police Lieutenant Al "Gooch" Monaco, will depart from Rockaway Townsquare mall in Rockaway at 6:30 p.m. and trickle onto Newark's Ferry Street after 7 p.m.
"It was just a whole environment that made us come back," said Mike Little, president of Blue Knights Chapter IX, of returning to Brick City for a second year. "We found a new home, so to speak."
In the past, the fundraising bike run concluded in New York's Little Italy, a change that made logistical sense given the warm weather and sheer volume of bikers.
"One of the problems was motorcyclists would get stuck in the Holland Tunnel and (the run) would slow down once it got into New York," said Little, adding that the heat in the tunnel was tough on bikers. "And parking isn't a problem (in Newark)."
This year, four young individuals with serious medical needs will split the money raised by the run, which collected more than $40,000 last year, according to officials. Each year, recipients of the award are chosen based on financial need. (See below for a list of recipients.) Close to $600,000 has been raised in the run's 25 years through t-shirt and pin sales, sponsorships, vendor fees and donations.
"That's what motorcyclists do – they just want to help out," said Little, a retired Denville police sergeant.
Bikers will travel via police escort along Route 80 to Route 280 East, down Route 21 to the Ironbound where they can enjoy dinner at Iberia Restaurant and other Ferry Street joints.
"It's a nice safe ride," said Little, who expects a good turn out Wednesday given a
Specially designed Gooch's Garlic Run t-shirts and pins will be on sale in Newark and Rockaway Township. Prior to the run, vendors like Harley Davidson will set up booths at the mall's JCPenney parking lot, which begins to fill up with bikers as early as noon. Registration begins at 4 p.m.
"It's all about fundraising and riding motorcycles," said Little. "That's what the Blue Knights is about."
Volunteers from the Ironbound Business Improvement District (IBID) will be on hand at the Rockaway mall and in Newark to help guide bikers to appropriate Ferry Street destinations.
"Local people had a treat (last year) and kids enjoyed seeing the motorcycles," said Vince Baglivo, IBID's communications director.
2012 Gooch's Garlic Run Recipients
- Antonina Berrocal, 2, of Stillwater, needs round-the-clock nursing and several surgeries to reconstruct her damaged airway after being born prematurely. Antonina needs to be fed through a gastrostomy tube and must breathe through a tracheostomy after being born with no upper airway.
- Chloe Madison Van Houten, 8, of Sussex County, suffers from cystic fibrosis, an incurable chronic disease which causes mucus to build up in the lungs. Chloe relies on very expensive medications and must be hospitalized for 10 days every year for antibiotic treatments.
- Luz Durand, 20, of Kearny, suffers from hydrocephalus, a build up of fluid in the skull leading to brain swelling, and autism. Durand relies on vision and orthopedic specialists for treatment.
- Maria Julia Ciliberti, 5, of Hibernia, suffers from cerebral palsy and cataracts. Maria needs specialized care for neurology, as well as a pediatric optometrist, gastroenterologist and orthopedic specialist.