Members of the Red Knights Motorcycle Club appear to be like any other hardcore motorcycle club when they come roaring down the street wearing their “colors.”
But the 20 members of the club’s Nassau County-based chapter have one important difference with most of their fellow motorcylists - a commitment to helping others.
“We decided we like riding together and we like doing things for charitable purposes,” chapter member Dave Fernandez said.
The Red Knights chapter currently focuses it fundraising efforts on three primary causes: America’s 9/11 Foundation, the Keith Fairben Memorial Scholarship Fund and Safe Haven.
Fernandez, a former captain of Rescue Company No. 4 in the Floral Park Fire Department, said the Red Knights chapter grew last year out of a group of local volunteer firemen who shared passion for riding motorcycles on weekends. Memership, which is restricted to current or former members of fire departments and their families, includes easy riders from the Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Stewart Manor, Mineola, Manhasset-Lakeville, Merrick and Freeport fire departments.
The firefighters first learned about the Red Knights while riding on the annual America’s 9/11 Foundation ride to raise money for families of the victims of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Towers and first responders. And that provided the spark to form a Red Knight’s chapter.
“The big thing that brought us all together was realizing that we had the potential to raise money for this 9/11 organization,” Fernandez said.
The members riding on this year’s 9/11 ride will depart Floral Park at approximately 6 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16 for the 700-mile ride that starts at a rallying point with other motorcyclists outside of Shanksville, Pa, where United Airlines Flight 93 apparently crashed after passengers resisted the Al-Qaeda terrorists who had hi-jacked the plane on Sept. 11.
The Red Knights stop at the crash site memorial and spend the night in the area. They proceed to the site of the Pentagon on Saturday. They stay overnight in Arlington, Va., and stop in Hightstown, N.J., the home of Todd Beamer, who reputedly led the passenger resistance on Flight 93. Then they proceed to New York City on Saturday with the Trade Towers site their final destination for a memorial service on Sunday morning, Aug. 19
“People line up with flags and wave at us from overpasses. It’s an emotional experience,” Fernandez said. “It’s a lot of riding and a very moving thing.”
The Keith Fairben Memorial Scholarship Fund honors the memory of Fairben, a fallen member of the Floral Park Fire Department and a paramedic who died as one of the first responders on 9/11. That scholarship fund, administered on an application basis, pays for the 18-month training course required for advance medical training or paramedic training in Nassau County.
Kenneth Fairben, Keith’s father and ex-chief of the Floral Park Fire Department, is also a Red Knights member.
“We try to support worthy causes,” said Fairben, who is the Red Knights vice president. “And you meet a lot of nice people It’s a great bunch of people.”
The Red Knights also ride for Safe Haven, an organization created by Nassau County Medics to save abandoned babies. Safe Haven encourages mothers who want to give up their babies at area hospitals rather than randomly abandoning them.
“What it’s for is a no questions asked situation,” Fernandez said.
But the Red Knights ride for a host of other causes as well, according to Fernandez.
“Pretty much every weekend, there’s some charity being supported by the motorcycle community on Long Island,” he said. “We find out about rides from being part of the Long Island motorcycle community.”
Most recently, the club participated in a ride for Autism Speaks! in part because Victor Sewinski, a member of the New Hyde Park Fire Department who has a autistic son.
Last month they rode with another firefighter group, the Nassau County Fire Riders, on their the Christmas in July, to bring presents to special needs children at a school in Old Brookville.
The club regularly rides in support of the U.S. Veterans Motorcycle Club of Long Island which is composed of retired military veterans. It donates all proceeds to veterans’ charities and causes, including support of the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Freeport.
Fernandez said wearing their local club’s colors - featuring a large red fire department badge on the back of a black vest - serves a dual purpose that has nothing to do with ego.
“We wear our colors to show support,” he said. “It helps when some of the clubs see us there and there’s reciprocity in helping out with our causes.”
Let us know what you think by tweeting @theislandnow1 using #redknightsfundraising