Motorcycle riders take to the road again on June 2 for the Second Annual Memorial Mark Vogel Charity Run in Secaucus. The charity run is being held to honor the memory of former Secaucus volunteer firefighter Mark Vogel, New Jersey’s smallest firefighter, and to raise money for the Little People of America (LPA).
This year’s event will be held at Buchmuller Park and will include live music, a bike stunt show, pro-wrestling, food and family-friendly activities. Registration for the motorcycle run begins at 9 a.m. followed by breakfast. Riders leave at 11 a.m. for a 45-mile ride from Secaucus, head up the Palisades Interstate Parkway, a stop at a park overlook for a prayer ceremony, and then return via 9W. At 12 p.m. all are welcome for the BBQ, entertainment, and activities.
Honoring Mark Vogel’s memory
This year marks the 11th anniversary of the death of Mark Vogel, who passed away on June 16, 2001 while recovering from an operation. His brother, Fred Vogel, had always sought a way to pay honor to his memory.
It was his wife, Melissa Vogel, who came up with the idea of paying tribute to him in time for the anniversary last year. Although Mark Vogel was born with a form of dwarfism called achondroplasia, he didn’t let his height stop him from serving as a volunteer firefighter for the Secaucus and Moonachie fire departments and also as a member of the Moonachie EMT squad. He was named New Jersey’s Public Servant of the Year in 2000 by the Bergen County PAL.
“From my understanding from my brother, he just wanted to be treated like everybody else.” – Fred Vogel
Benefitting little people
Vogel said that he hopes the event will raise awareness about dwarfism and combat the stereotypes and the stigma that little people face. Vogel said that addressing little people by their actual names is a step forward in changing behaviors and attitudes.
“From my understanding from my brother, he just wanted to be treated like everybody else without any favoritism or different stares or looks,” said Vogel. He wants to change attitudes “one person at a time.”
Danielle Morganti, president of the LPA Garden State Chapter, said that in addition to feeling different and being stared at for being different, little people face accessibility issues.
“It’s walking out the front door of the comfort of their own home into a world that is made for average size people,” said Morganti. “Not only do little people stick out in an average size world, which is why they get stared at constantly, but they do have to adapt in a world not made for them.”
Morganti has a teenage son who has the most common form of dwarfism. She gave examples such as reaching sinks and hand dryers in restaurants without stools or the top shelves in a grocery market as some of the issues.
Mark Vogel was a member of LPA, which provides support to people of short stature and their families. They also help families who have just had their son or daughter diagnosed with dwarfism. Their programs provide social interaction, medical support, education, scholarships and grants. Last year, money raised from the motorcycle run event came at a critical time for LPA.
“[Fred] was like our savior last year,” said Morganti. She said that at the time the group had run out of grant funding.
“When [Fred] contacted us we didn’t know how we were going to do our annual event at Black Bear Lake.” With the proceeds from the event, the LPA chapter was able to hold the regional event and also ran workshops for families and activities for kids later in the year.
Riders with a big heart
Morganti said that she felt a little unsure at first about attending the motorcycle run because she had never been around motorcycle riders before. Despite her initial feeling of intimidation, she took her son and he loved it.
“People were giving him so much attention that day,” said Morganti. “They went out of their way to make sure it was an awesome day for him. She added that her son said, “‘They made me feel like I was the king of the day.’”
“I was very thankful to the motorcycle community,” said Vogel. Vogel described the motorcycle community as a close-knit, amazing family. It was witnessing this camaraderie that motivated Vogel to organize a motorcycle drive.
The police-escorted ride will not exceed 50 mph during the run. Riders donate $25 to ride, passengers $15. Non-riders donate $15 for the BBQ at 12 p.m. and children under 12 are $5.
Vogel hopes to double the amount raised and the number of attendees this year. He has lined up entertainment from the band River Cat, D2 Pro-Wrestling, and King Rommel bike stunts among others.
The rain date for the event is June 3. For more information, please call Fred Vogel at (201) 469-6676.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.