Special Olympics Rhode Island Motorcycle Run kicks it into high gear

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“Sandman” and “Diesel” stood tall in the parking lot at 181 Putnam Pike Saturday afternoon munching on freshly-grilled hamburgers done to perfection by people like Thomas and Karen Lyons, David Izzo and Chris Giardina.

Even “The Goodfellas” made their presences known amid dozens of motorcyclists who were greeted by cheers, whistles and applause from the one-time Grieco Motor Group home until they entered famed Meade Stadium in Kingston sometime around 8 o’clock.

“Incredible,” exclaimed Phil Viens, the former Johnston Police patrolman who now owns and operates Scituate Liquors on Route 6, as he talked about the extraordinary happenings during Saturday’s 19th Annual Motorcycle Run. “I have never seen such support along the entire (route to URI) like there were tonight.”

That’s because people in general have a special place in their hearts for the award-winning Special Olympics Rhode Island Motorcycle run that Viens founded back in 1999 and keeps getting more and more support with each passing year.

An estimated 500 motorcycles of all shapes and sizes showed up for Saturday’s run that raised a total of $19,000 that will benefit hundreds of Special Olympics athletes who train and participate in year-found programs throughout the state.

The 2018 total amount of money raised was up over $2,000 from last year and as Viens pointed out “this year’s total could have been higher but there was that threat of rain earlier in the afternoon.”

However, as the proud motorcycle run founder emphasized: “I’m really happy with the result; a lot of families (with Special Olympians) depend on this money to keep their athletes active.”

One such Special Olympian was Sofia Iliano, 5, from North Providence who as Viens noted “stole the entire show today (Saturday) before we left Johnston and headed to URI and the 50th Anniversary of the SORI Summer Games.”

Sometime around 7 o’clock Saturday, the tiny and dancing 5-year-old shouted into a microphone “Start your Engines” and the sudden sound of vroom echoed in the air and soon the 500 plus motorcycles made their exits onto Route 44 which was lined with spectators for the run to Kingston.

“Sofia was thrilled and so was every one who took part in the pre-run party,” Viens noted. “Even the band Runnin’ Wild and disc jockey Pop Up Party … the police … everyone had high emotions when she started the run.”

Speaking of police, this year’s run was led by two dozen motorcycle police from all over the state led by Pete Leclerc, a Cranston Police officer who actually organized that portion of Saturday’s run.

In the middle of it all was Tracy Garabedian, SORI’s Director of Special Events, who helped organize the entire event and was showered with everyone at the pre-fun party signing Happy Birthday for what Viens called “another job that was well done.”

In keeping with tradition, privately owned former police cruisers were on hand and the Johnston Police had a special presence in maintaining traffic flow on the extra busy Route 44.

Food sponsors included Don DePetrillo of The Original Italian Bakery, Scituate Liquors, Grieco Automotive Group, Rhode Island Beef and Little Rhody while RI State Police Det. Kyle Shibley again turned out to help with security and Johnstonians like Dennis and Jen Goldberger, Justine Dutilly, Michelle DePetrillo, Robin DeRobbio, Ashley Marocco, Toni Mullane all played major roles in the event’s special success.

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