Bikers from all walks of life rode to Sunday morning on cycles of all makes, models and colors. But the group shared one goal—to get their motorcycles blessed in honor of a fallen police officer.
Red Knights, Blue Knights, Renegade Pigs and others convened at the on 183rd Street to honor the tradition, which began six years ago. The George McDonough Memorial Bike Blessing is a nod to a Homewood and Thornton police officer who died in May 2004.
McDonough lost control of his cycle that year while returning from the Illinois Police Officers Memorial Ceremony in Springfield, Ill. The blessing is now hosted annually by the South Suburban Police Chaplain's Coalition.
The idea? Bless every motorcycle possible before the big ride to Springfield for the memorial ceremony.
—he was a motorcycle enthusiast, himself—is the one who initially offered up Tinley's police lot for the blessing. It's worked like a charm to keep riders safe ever since, they said on Sunday.
"We feel this to be important, so that we have God's divine protection as we travel to and from Springfield for the state police memorial," said Ronnie White, chaplain for the South Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police. "We hope to keep something like George's accident from ever happening again."
Hopping off his 2000 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic, White scanned the area, admiring the more-than 80 bikers who showed up to be anointed.
"It's a great fellowship," he said.
As bikers lined up for their blessings, they were asked to place their right hand on the throttle. South Chicago Heights Fire Chief Larry Nardoni stepped up to the plate, bowing his head in prayer.
"This is a great event to start off the riding season," he said. "The (four) chaplains do a great job putting this together. … This is a remembrance for anyone, paying honor to those called to glory."
Tinley Park resident Tony Fabiano also took part. It was his first time participating in the local event, he said, but it felt right for him to do so.
"We always pray for those who ride and then think about those who aren't with us anymore," said Fabiano, who is a member of the American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association and .
As participants embark on their journey to Springfield early Tuesday, they hope the "big man upstairs" is on their side.
"God has blessed us to do something we enjoy," White said. "Let's ride."