Close to 30 bikers roared into the quiet community of Virginia Run last Saturday to pick up Shea Megale, 9, for one of the most exciting rides of her life. As the line of Harleys cruised up to the house on Wetherburn Drive, Shea, decked out in an American flag bandanna and biker gloves, waited with her mom Megan and dad Larry Megale.
"It means the world to me," said Shea as the bikers parked their bikes and walked up to greet her. It also meant a chance to leave her wheelchair for awhile.
Shea has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which attacks the cells in the spinal cord. It affects the voluntary muscles responsible for activities such as crawling, walking, head and neck control and swallowing.
But Saturday was her time to ride a chopper. "Shea is a really special little girl, with an endearing spirit," said Armand Mancini, a family friend who organized the event. "The ride is all about her."
Beaming from ear to ear, Shea was overjoyed as the riders gathered around her and chatted. She gladly talked with the press, posed for photos and kidded with the bikers. They discussed the past school year and asked her how her summer was going. Many also donated money to help find a cure for SMA.
"The bikes are so darned fast," she said with a grin.
The motorcycle riders brought a sidecar so that Shea could ride either in it or on a bike with Mancini. The second-annual ride took the caravan of bikers to Patriot Harley Davidson Motorcycle dealership in the City of Fairfax, and then to get some ice cream at Milwaukee Frozen Custard in Chantilly. Shea was strapped onto the bike by her father and sat in front of Mancini. As she was about to leave, she was asked if she was ready to get the wind in her face.
"Ready to get some bugs in my teeth, too," she said jokingly.
The majority of bikers took off as Shea's brother Matt, 13, sister Kelley, 14, and father all got on bikes for their own rides. Shea's mother traveled behind in the family car. She called the event "very overwhelming, that people would give up their Saturday for Shea."
The people at Patriot "made her feel so special," said Megan Megale, "They made a huge deal over her and gave her a big stuffed animal." Milwaukee Frozen Custard had a private party, where Shea ordered vanilla ice cream with sprinkles.
"The coolest part was that they were going so fast that every two seconds my lips were getting chapped," said Shea after the ride.
The idea for the event first came when Mancini, who is a member of HOG — a bikers organization based out of Patriot Harley Davidson Motorcycle dealership — asked Shea if she'd like to ride a motorcycle. "Her eyes got as wide as saucers," he said, and that's when he knew he had to make it happen.
Mancini is one of her biggest fans. "Shea is the kind of person you just can't help but love or admire," he said. "She is a real inspiration."