By Amy E. Williams
Daily Herald correspondent
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About Little AngelsLittle Angels is home for children and young adults with severe disabilities and complex medical needs. The center offers round-the-clock skilled nursing, therapeutic and habilitation services.
Facts at a glance• Little Angels was founded in 1958 by Elgin residents Pat and Bob Wasmond.
• The center has 57 residents.
• Little Angels assists individuals from birth through young adulthood.
• Little Angels is at 1435 Summit St., Elgin, on the eastern edge of Elgin.
• To learn more, visit www.littleangels.org/ or call (847) 741-1609.
How you can help• To make a donation to the home, visit the Little Angels website.
• To register or volunteer for the Little Angels Pledge Run, visit www.lapledgerun.com/.
As their engines rev and the heroes take off on their motorcycles, the children they are raising money for will be standing on the route cheering them on.
And seeing those faces, hearing those cheers, helps drive the hundreds of motorcycle riders who participate in the annual Little Angels Pledge Run each year.
The run, which helps support Little Angels Center for Exceptional Care -- a home in Elgin for children and young adults with severe disabilities -- will take place Sunday, May 18.
Last year, the run brought in $132,000 for the Summit Street home, which offers round-the-clock skilled nursing, habilitation and therapeutic services.
Volunteers with the Elgin Area Organization of Motorcycle Riders, which puts on the ride, are hoping to bring in even more this year to help keep the home operating.
Depending on the weather, organizers from the EAO hope for more than 2,000 riders to take the 80-mile ride from the Woodstock Harley-Davidson, through McHenry, Boone and Winnebago counties. After the ride, they'll end up back at the Harley-Davidson again for a big celebration.
Riders have been collecting pledges for months in hopes of making the run a success again this year, said Ed Flavin, one of the organizers of the run and a vice president with the EAO.
"We see how much it helps. We see how much the money helps improve the daily lives of the children. We know the money is going toward helping these children out," Flavin said.
The funds the riders collect are essential for the care of the 57 residents in the home. According to the group's website, 100 percent of funds raised go directly to Little Angels.
This is the 27th year of the Little Angels Pledge Run. The run began in 1988 when a Harley Owners Group formed in Elgin and wanted to reach out to local charities to help out, said Little Angels Director of Development Mary Jean Adkins.
One of the group's members came riding into Little Angels on his chopper and told the director he'd like to help in some way, she said.
The director at the time thought it sounded like a blast, and the run that year made $9,000, Adkins said.
"They were so excited and pumped they made that much, they decided they wanted to keep doing it," she said.
What started then as a small group of bikers who wanted to do some charity work and reach out to the community, has now grown into one of the largest biker charity events in the Midwest.
"It's certainly one of the best attended," Adkins said. "To have it go 27 years is pretty amazing."
When the run began in 1988, the proceeds were used for extras such as equipment that the kids needed, Adkins said. However, that has changed. Now, the money helps fund the essential services the residents need, including medical equipment and wheelchair-adapted transportation, she said.
Apart from donations, Little Angels is completely funded by the state of Illinois and all of its residents receive Medicaid.
"That's pretty darn challenging these days," Adkins said. "Fundraising events like these are absolutely essential to our well-being. We would have a hard time providing on Medicaid alone if it were not for this event."
Some of the funds come through corporate sponsorships that the volunteers seek out. However, the largest part of it really is the riders themselves going out and getting pledges, Adkins said.
"Our riders are our champions in this," Adkins said. "So much of our bottom line comes from $20 and under donations that they get from their work, their family and friends, and their local bars and restaurants.
"Our riders are our guardian angels. We couldn't do it without them."
Flavin said he doesn't think the home will ever have to live without the funds from the ride. Riders keep returning year after year because the Little Angels Pledge Run is such a fun event for a great cause.
"It's amazing how many people look forward to this. They comes from far away to participate," Flavin, of Algonquin, said.
"I don't really know how to explain it. The camaraderie and how everybody feels about what we're doing and why we're doing it, and they like to be a part of it and know they are doing good and helping out. They just keep coming back year after year. It's all volunteer. It's all about helping out your neighbors and your friends, and you can't get a better feeling than that."
However, Flavin said, he's always hoping for the run to get even bigger each year and to bring in more money.
He's hoping that in the future more corporate sponsors will jump on board to help out Little Angels because it is such a worthwhile cause.
"It raises a lot of money, but when you look at the bigger picture, it's a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed," he said.
"What they do over there at the Little Angels home for these children and young adults is amazing. The more people that get a chance to actually take the time and check out what they do and why they do what they do, it's very difficult to walk away and not want to try to do something to help out."