Riders with a cause: Bikers turn out in droves for Petit foundation

Sunday, September 30, 2012 9:26 PM EDT

By Erica Schmitt
Staff Writer

The rain held off Sunday for the couple of thousand bikers who zoomed around the region in honor of Jennifer, Hayley and Michaela Hawke-Petit.

It was the Petit Family Foundation’s third annual Ride for Justice and Dr. William Petit, who lost his wife and two daughters in the horrific Cheshire home invasion in 2007 — was honored to see how many supporters showed.

“We’ve got great support from the community to help us in our mission,” he said before the large procession of riders left St. Paul Catholic High School a little before noon, dodging the off-and-on showers lingering over the area.

“It’s our biggest year so far for donations,” added Petit, who rode as a passenger on a friend’s bike alongside his new wife, Christine Paluf, riding with another friend.

“It’s not gonna rain; we always have good luck with these events,” said Paluf, standing among the crowd of leather-clad supporters who came from all across the state to join in the cause.

The Petit Family Foundation’s fundraising efforts go to support those living with chronic illness, educational opportunities for young people, and those affected by violence.

And avid bikers are known for their benevolence, some riding in multiple benefit events throughout the year — rain or shine.

Middletown residents Dan and Lesa LePage are an example.

“It’s our first time in this particular ride, but we ride benefits at least a couple times a year,” said Dan, whose Yamaha Star Venture is a luxury bike made for long trips over winding country roads like those the riders took Sunday — through Bristol, Terryville, Harwinton, Burlington, Wolcott and Plantsville.

Newington residents John and Jeanine Webb made the trip for the second time in its three-year run, on a Harley Electric Ride.

“Dr. Petit was my doctor years ago; it’s a really good cause,” Jeanine explained.

Family friend Ron Catucci came up with the idea for the ride in 2009, before organizing a committee and kicking off the first annual event in 2010.

“We’ve got good food, good entertainment, and good people coming together for a good cause,” he said before getting on his bike. “There are three angels watching over us, here to protect us on our ride; they cleared the skies for us and this is all in honor of them.”

Coming up Nov. 4 the foundation is sponsoring the New England Air Museum’s eighth annual “Women Take Flight” and then on November 17 it is hosting its own first annual: “An Evening Honoring Women in Science” — being held at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford.

For more information about the Petit Family Foundation and its efforts, visit PetitFamilyfoundation.org.

Erica Schmitt can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 210, or[email protected].