Jimmy Bernardo Memorial Ride continues to benefit kids in need
PITTSFIELD -- There is a scenic ride followed by good food, good music, good drink and good cheer every year at the annual Jimmy Bernardo Memorial Ride.
But there is always the dark reason why it's all necessary.
Sunday marked the 18th annual incarnation of the event, which attracted more than 150 motorcyclists and several hundred supporters who gathered at Onota Lake after the riders' tour of Berkshire County.
There were several dozen volunteers selling food and T-shirts. The three bands, Static, the Rockhounds and Live Wire, as well as solo artist Lindsey Maynard ,all donated their time.
The sunny day turned rainy at about 2 p.m., but no one seemed to mind.
"It's for a good cause," said Rebecca Amuso of Dalton. "I'm thrilled to be here."
"It's very gratifying," said Robert Bernardo, the younger brother of James Bernardo, who was kidnapped, assaulted and killed as a 13-year-old in 1990 by Louis Lent. Lent is now serving a life sentence for this and other murders. "My family is very grateful to the community for their support all these years."
Jimmy's Ride annually raises about $30,000 for Kids' Place, a nonprofit organization that treats children who have suffered sexual abuse and other traumas.
The organization needs to raise about $150,000 of its budget from outside sources, according to Krista Collier, director of Kids' Place. This fundraiser is one of its biggest of the year.
The organization sees about 3,000 reports of abuse yearly, she said. More than 400 children throughout Berkshire County are treated annually.
And while Sunday's event was successful, Rob Bernardo conceded that he rarely gets through a day like Sunday without thinking of the young boy, now trapped forever in time, who had his back growing up.
"Jimmy was a tough kid," he said. "He was two years older than I was, and he always stuck up for me. And I don't think my parents ever thought something like could happen to him. No one's parents think that could happen to their kid. The world was so different then. We used to ride our bikes all over town 20 years ago. But thing change.
"So it's gratifying, and I'm glad everyone has a good time," said Rob Bernardo. "I think Jim would like that. But the memory is always there."
Not just for Rob Bernardo and his parents, by the way.
"I didn't know Jimmy, but he and I are the same age," said Monica Bliss. "It was a scary time. I remember we were told to be on the lookout for a white van."
Lent drove a white van.
Bliss agreed with Amuso that she was happy to be at Onota Lake Sunday to listen to her favorite band, Static, and support the cause. But she hasn't forgotten those days, 23 years ago, either.
Throughout the interview, Rob Bernardo accepted hugs from friends and supporters. He had a good-natured smile and a word of thanks for all the people he encountered.
"It's a pretty big weight off my shoulders," when the day is over, he said. "But we start planning the next one a week later."
To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile