WASHINGTONVILLE — Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5532 hosted a multitude of motorcycles Sunday afternoon as participants of the 27th annual Fred Perry Benefit Motorcycle Run for Kids roared into town.
The post’s plentiful grounds served as the first stop of a 70-mile trip which started at the Austintown Plaza, continued into Salem to AMVETS Post 45, traveled to Ben’s Restaurant near Berlin Lake and then returned to Austintown for prizes, live entertainment and a 50/50 raffle — all to raise money for a little girl afflicted with a rare congenital heart condition.
Grace Graham, a 6-month-old from North Jackson, is this year’s beneficiary from the motorcycle event which raises funds to benefit children in the area suffering from health problems. Published reports say this was the last for the non-profit named after Fred Perry, a motorcycle mechanic from Austintown who died from cancer in July 1991.
“He was just a great guy, my grandfather. He would help anybody anytime,” Fred Hively of Boardman said.
Hively and another one of Fred Perry’s grandsons, Sam Martucci of Salem, talked fondly of the man who worked for Warren Harley Davidson and worked on bikes at his home, too. The first run was held in appreciation of the Woodrow Wilson High School grad after he was diagnosed, but Martucci said his grandfather wanted the money to go to kids.
“He had seven healthy kids. He wanted to help other kids who needed help,” Phyllis Johntony of Austintown said Fred Perry was quoted as saying.
Since his death and the death of his wife Dot, the Perry siblings and their offspring have kept the motorcycle run going and have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for children. Hively said not only has the money been used to help individual kids, but they’ve also used funds to build playgrounds at Austintown Park, Liberty Park in North Jackson and at the Hospice location in Boardman. Money has also been donated to the ROCK (Raising Our Commitment to Cancer Kids) Children’s Choir, a group of children which travels around singing about their experiences with cancer. The group is based in Austintown. Wheelchair ramps have also been installed when needed for children.
“Everything’s for the kids,” Martucci said.
In past years, the motorcycle run has attracted as many as 1,300 participants, according to Hively, but he estimated this year’s number at close to 1,000. Fred Perry’s son Dale has served as president of the family-run group. The family now includes not only the children of Fred and Dot, but numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“We just want to thank the people who have been coming for years,” Hively said, adding along with Martucci, “all the people who have helped, all the places where we stopped.”
This was the second year in a row for the Washingtonville V.F.W. to serve as a pit stop.
“We’re glad to have them. The V.F.W. is here for the community,” Post Commander John Drewnoski.