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By tradition, the Mooseheart Bike Blessing will take place at the campus' House of God. This year marks the ninth straight year motorcycle enthusiasts have partaken in a Bike Blessing at Mooseheart.
MOOSEHEART, May 16 - That unmistakable rumble created by close a few hundred massed motorcycles is about to shake the Mooseheart campus once again on Saturday.
But it is a loving racket -- this noise created, as it has been for eight previous years, in conjunction with the Mooseheart Blessing of the Bikes. And when, for the ninth time, the riders dismount and move near the steps outside the campus’ House of God, the atmosphere changes completely.
What happens next -- during the actual bike blessing -- is no less extraordinary than the support these motorcycle enthusiasts and Moose members provide for the communities they live in and the fraternity to which they belong.
The blessing is given by a Mooseheart student. The motorcyclists and their companions bow their heads and the only sound is of that child wishing on the bikers a safe riding season.
“Everything stops,” said Assistant Director of Membership, Moose Rider and event organizer Chris Ecker. “When you’re thinking about a motorcycle event, you’re thinking about roaring engines and pipes and the blessing is a moment of serenity within what people think is a noisy hobby. That’s where we’re all on the same wavelength. It’s an even closer moment than those moments that you share on the ride we take after the blessing.”
Bike blessings take place all over the country at the start of the riding season. At Mooseheart, the blessing usually takes place in mid-May.
“It’s an annual event that motorcyclists partake in,” Ecker said. “It’s almost as much a part of their journey as is packing the proper tools in your saddle bag or having oil in your motorcycle. It’s part of the tune-up for the season.”
Registration for the event opens at 8 a.m. The annual “class picture” of all riders is scheduled for 10:30 with the ride through campus beginning at 11. The actual blessing will be delivered between 11:30 and 11:45. Riders will then take part in a 60-mile ride, ultimately finishing at Fox River Harley-Davidson in St. Charles. A mid-ride stop at Maple Park Pub and Grill.
Ecker said that pre-registration this year stands at 52 motorcycles and 32 people, with registrations from as far away as California, Texas and Florida. The numbers always swell near the day of the event. Pre-registration is ahead of last year’s pace, and 237 motorcycles and 327 Moose Riders attended.
“Even the people coming in from Wisconsin, Iowa or Michigan -- you’re really traveling out of dedication to support an institution that you believe in,” Ecker said.
The Mooseheart Blessing of the Bikes, which is open to all motorcycle enthusiasts, is a fundraiser for Moose Charities as well as Special Olympics, which is a program supported by the Moose. For the second consecutive year, a Special Olympics Global Ambassador will address the crowd.
This year, the event has added two new affiliations. One is with WLUP-FM 97.9 in Chicago. Tricia, the "Loop Rock Girl," is attending the event and will be available to sign autographs and photographs. The WLUP Stock Car will also be on display.
The other partnership is with the Windy City group of Harley-Davidson dealership group, which includes Fox River Harley-Davidson and four other dealerships.
Information on the 2012 Mooseheart Bike Blessing can be found online at: <http://www.mooseride4kids.org>. Additional information can be obtained by calling 630-966-2216.
The pre-registration cost is $20 for any single rider or two-up. Pre-registrations must be received by mail by May 18. Registration on Saturday is $25. Those registering receive a patch, a complimentary raffle ticket, a meal at Fox River Harley-Davidson and additional items.
Since its founding, Mooseheart has operated a complete, accredited kindergarten-through-high-school academic program, plus art, music, vocational training and interscholastic sports. It is an extremely nurturing and student-tailored program, with an average student-teacher ratio of 12-1.
Mooseheart students who complete their studies with a 3.0 GPA or better (4.0=A) are eligible for up to five years of annually renewable scholarship funding, covering tuition, room and board in an amount comparable to that required for an in-state student at an Illinois public university.
Mooseheart is currently home to roughly 230 students, ranging in age from preschoolers to high school seniors. Applications for admission to Mooseheart are considered from any family whose children are, for whatever reason, lacking a stable home environment. Mooseheart boasts its own U.S. Post Office and a fully functioning branch of Fifth Third Bank.
In addition to Mooseheart, Moose International also supports Moosehaven, a 70-acre retirement community near Jacksonville, FL founded in 1922; and conducts more than $70 million worth of community service programs annually.