Annual ride fuels foundation

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Brenda Jeanette-Grifa, of Waterbury, right, checks out the ladybug sticker put on her hand by Savanna Shira, left, before the 5th Annual Motorcycle Benefit Ride to benefit the Kacey Rose Foundation Sunday at Moe’s Auto Sales & Service in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Brenda Jeanette-Grifa, of Waterbury, right, checks out the ladybug sticker put on her hand by Savanna Shira, left, before the 5th Annual Motorcycle Benefit Ride to benefit the Kacey Rose Foundation Sunday at Moe’s Auto Sales & Service in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — Motorcycles lined the parking lot of Moe’s Auto Sales & Service on Rubber Avenue Sunday morning. They weren’t there for a tune-up.

Sunday was the 5th Annual Motorcycle Benefit Ride for the Kacey Rose Foundation. The fundraiser is organized annually by Moe’s Auto owner Moe Shira in honor of his niece, Kacey Rose Mitchell, who died from leukemia.

“I’m the only family member that rides a motorcycle, so I thought what better way to raise money than have a ride,” Shira said.

Kacey died in May 2008 at the age of 2. Glen Mitchell, Kasey’s father, said following Kacey’s death he was talking with his wife, Kristina, when they turned to each other and said that two and half years of life can’t be all for their daughter.

A few months later, the Mitchells started the Kacey Rose Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. The foundation raises money to help families with a child battling pediatric cancer to pay for items like medical bills and mortgage payments.

Mitchell said treatment can go on for years when a child is fighting cancer. The treatment can take a financial toll on families, and some people can lose their jobs or their homes, he said. The Mitchells wanted to do something to help those families.

“We experienced it ourselves,” Mitchell said.

The Kacey Rose Foundation has helped over 200 families since its inception, Mitchell said, through events like the annual motorcycle ride.

Aside from helping the foundation, Shira said he started the ride five years ago for personal reasons.

“For me it hits home because I am Kasey’s uncle. I am also a father of three girls, ages 4, 6, and 7,” Shira said.

Volunteers and members of the Kacey Rose Foundation, front row from left, Brooke Shira, Lily Shira, Savanna Shira; back row from left, Glen Mitchell, Dan Luccia, Kim Shira, Ann Kerlin and Moe Shira pose for a picture before the 5th Annual Motorcycle Benefit Ride Sunday at Moe’s Auto Sales & Service in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Volunteers and members of the Kacey Rose Foundation, front row from left, Brooke Shira, Lily Shira, Savanna Shira; back row from left, Glen Mitchell, Dan Luccia, Kim Shira, Ann Kerlin and Moe Shira pose for a picture before the 5th Annual Motorcycle Benefit Ride Sunday at Moe’s Auto Sales & Service in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Shira also enjoys knowing that his actions are helping other people.

“There’s no better feeling than paying it forward,” he said. “We may be helping families that I never know who they are.”

About 24 motorcycles, 40 riders in all, took part in the event on Sunday. Participants rode from the shop on Rubber Avenue to AJ’s Steak & Pizza in Goshen and back to Mr. D’s Tavern on Rubber Avenue for lunch, where about 100 people gathered to help the cause.

More than $1,800 was raised through the event, Shira said.

“The riding community that I know is probably one of the most giving groups of people. They are always out to lend a helping hand,” Shira said.

Mitchell thanked Shira and everyone at Moe’s that organizes the event each year.

Shira said many people volunteer their time to run the event and ensure as much money as possible can be donated to the foundation.

“I may be the person who is hosting it, but I can’t do it without a great team. It makes it a good such feeling. But we’re not doing it for a pat on back, it’s simply because we want to do it,” Shira said.

For more information on the Kacey Rose Foundation, visit www.kaceyrose.org.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this article.