More than 120 motorcyclists spent their Saturday riding around the Capital Region and remembering someone they considered a friend, even if they didn’t know her.
Dressed in leather jackets and sporting patches, the riders left Maple Ski Ridge in the morning, then returned in the afternoon for food and music. They weren’t at the Rotterdam ski area just for the food and music, however; they were there for the annual Akin’s Angels Motorcycle Memorial Ride to raise money for the Jimmy Fund, which supports cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Saturday’s event included a 95-mile journey that began and ended at Maple Ski Ridge. Riders took a scenic loop that included communities like Altamont and Middleburgh before returning to the ski area for the food and music, as well as a raffle that also raised money for cancer research. Organizers expected to meet or exceed the $11,000 raised last year.
The event was started six years ago by friends, family and co-workers of the late Beverley Akin. Akin, who started working at Price Chopper as her first job when she was 16 and remained there for 30 years, had many friends at work who wanted to do something to help with her medical expenses after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. They decided on a charity run, since many were riders and felt it was the best way to raise money. However, Akin didn’t want the money for herself, instead asking it be donated toward cancer research.
Akin died in June 2013, before the fifth annual ride. She was at the event every year until that one, but the cancer had spread throughout her body and the treatments had lost their effectiveness.
Throughout her 11-year fight, she never stopped being who she was, family, friends and colleagues recalled Saturday. Akin, who grew up on a farm in Duanesburg, loved animals and being outdoors and was always full of energy. Her husband, David, remembered the amount of energy she had and how much she loved to work — work was something for her to focus on, he explained.
Even when her feet would swell as a reaction to the chemotherapy, she would come to work barefoot rather than stay at home. She would usually take her treatments on Fridays so she could at least try to recover over the weekend and be back at work Monday.
“Probably the most hard-working woman you’d ever meet,” said her son, Raymond John Gordon,.
Gordon remembered how his mother would always try to bring people together and how she never wanted her family or friends to split apart. For instance, Gordon, Akin’s son from her first marriage, doesn’t consider Justin Akin, 16, her son from her second marriage, as a stepbrother but as simply his “little brother.”
Rae Hughes, the main organizer of Saturday’s event, started her career at Price Chopper at the same time as Beverley — Hughes was 19 at the time. They worked their way up together, and Hughes is now administrative assistant to the supermarket chain’s president and CEO, while Akin was director of financial services at the time of her death.
They were friends from the beginning of their careers, and Akin was godmother to Hughes’ daughter Tierney.
Gretchen Smith, another friend of Akin who also helped organize the event, said the goal of the ride remains important, even though Akin is gone.
“Everyone is affected by cancer in one way or another,” she said.