For several years, Tony Testa and his wife, Becky, participated in the Miracle Ride for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. Both were motorcycle enthusiasts, and they enjoyed helping to raise money for the children’s hospital.
But in 2004, it got personal.
“My stepson, Jim, had a child who was born in 2004, Aiden,” Testa said. “Aiden was born with quite a few challenges.”
The 20th annual Miracle Ride, a 62-mile motorcycle ride that raises money for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, will take place Sunday, May 18, starting at the Spinning Wheel Restaurant in Cicero. Registration begins at 10 a.m., and the ride itself will begin at noon. Cicero Police Chief Joseph Snell, who coordinates traffic control for the ride along with the Chittenango and Cazenovia police departments and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, urged motorists to make note of the ride and be cautious of the riders.
“People need to be aware that the ride will be going on,” Snell said. “There will be several hundred bikes in this ride, so be cautious of them. It might be better to pull over and give them the right of way.”
The route starts at the Spinning Wheel on Thompson Road. Riders will then go up South Bay to Route 31 and into Madison County. From there, they’ll take Lakeport Road to Chittenango, then take Route 13 into Cazenovia. Riders will then circle back and take the same route back to Cicero.
For more information about the Miracle Ride, visit foundationforupstate.org/miracleride.
Aiden Snell was born with Pierre-Robin Syndrome (PRS), a birth defect that causes cleft palate, smaller-than-normal or underdeveloped jaw, a tongue that sits back too far in the throat, obstructing breathing, and several other issues. The genetic condition affects approximately one out of every 1,500 children. In Aiden’s case, the disorder required surgery just a few days after he was born.
“Dr. [Sherard] Tatum at University Hospital had been performing the surgery for PRS for a number of years. He’s world-renowned,” Testa said. “Dr. Tatum suggested that Aiden needed to go through a sequence of repair work. Part of that was to actually grow his jaw. So he had orthopedic surgery. He was sedated for 10 days and intubated when he was just a newborn. He’s had about eight other surgeries at University to improve his quality of life, because PRS comes with orthodontic issues and there are learning disabilities associated with this type of birth defect.”
Since his birth, Aiden has had a total of eight surgeries to improve his quality of life. According to his other grandfather, Cicero Police Chief Joseph Snell, Aiden is now a happy, healthy almost-10-year-old.
“Now he’s a very happy boy who’s mainstreamed in school,” Snell said. “He plays the piano. It’s a miracle what they did for him.”
Given Aiden’s experience at Golisano, Testa dedicated more effort to the Miracle Ride to provide other children with the same opportunities.
“[Aiden] has had such tremendous care through Dr. Tatum and his team at Golisano Children’s Hospital,” Testa said. “We wanted to do this as a thank-you.”
Testa, who works for Welch Allyn in Skaneateles, which also supports the ride, and his wife took over as organizers of the event shortly after Aiden was born. The event invites bikers to raise money for Golisano and participate in a 62-mile motorcycle ride through Onondaga and Madison counties. This year’s event, the 20th annual ride, will take place Sunday, May 18. Registration begins at 10 a.m. and the ride starts at noon. The route starts at the Spinning Wheel on Thompson Road. Riders will then go up South Bay to Route 31 and into Madison County. From there, they’ll take Lakeport Road to Chittenango, then take Route 13 into Cazenovia. Riders will then circle back and take the same route back to Cicero. Registration is $30, though the fee is waived if riders raise at least $150.
Upon their return, bikers will enjoy a chicken barbecue at the Spinning Wheel, along with live entertainment and numerous raffles. The big-ticket item up for grabs this year is a 2014 Harley Davidson XL883 Sportster, donated by FX Caprera.
“Charlie Caprera was very involved in wanting this to be successful,” said Toni Gary, director of community relations and development for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, The Foundation for Upstate Medical University. “We’ve been very lucky to have such wonderful sponsors.”
Gary said the foundation was also pleased to have had so many bikers participate over the years.
“It started with a handful of riders, and last year, more than 700 people participated,” she said. “It’s grown every year.”
The event began in 1994 when volunteers from the Foundation for Upstate Medical University joined 30 motorcycle riders in the open lot where Upstate University Hospital’s East Garage now stands. The first ride raised $3,000. Now, the ride attracts an average of 500 riders; Testa said one year, 1,000 bikers took part.
“Bikers are some of the most charitable people on the planet,” Testa said. “We really love kids, and we love to do things for the kids.”
Though the event centers around the motorcycle ride, non-bikers are encouraged to come, as well. They can enjoy the barbecue and raffles for $15.
This year, a portion of the proceeds will help fund a new pediatric outpatient cancer center, the Dr. William J. Waters Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders. Upstate is the only Central New York hospital to treat children with cancer and blood disorders, underscoring the need for donations.
“It’s important to support a local entity such as Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital because you can see where your dollars are going,” Gary said.
For many bikers, that’s the appeal of the Miracle Ride — all of the money benefits a local entity.
“All of the money stays local,” Testa said. “We took part in a number of different charity rides, but we learned that a lot of the money doesn’t stay local. The money for the Miracle Ride does. It’s very important to us that any money we generate, especially from businesses, stays local.”
The proximity of Golisano itself is also important to many families facing a child’s illness.
“Having family close by is an important part of children’s health,” Gary said. “Children heal at a faster pace when their families are around. Having Golisano Children’s Hospital nearby means that families aren’t having to travel so far to get care.”
“We have a wonderful resource here,” Testa said. “Aiden has benefitted from it, as have many others. We’re blessed to be able to have it in Central New York.”
For more information on Miracle Ride, visit foundationforusptate.org/miracleride or call 464-4416.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.