The bond between members of the Chicano Harley Riders motorcycle club has extended beyond the road.
The group of 15 Harley Davidson enthusiasts from communities across the Westside, including Venice and Santa Monica, have collaborated to support a variety of local organizations in need. The club has helped raise funds for organizations such as the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Optimist Youth Home of Los Angeles, the Fred Jordan Mission, Westside Children’s Center, several battered women/children centers and the Los Angeles Police Department toy drive.
Now, with one of their friends in need following a life-changing accident, the riders are once again coming together to help out.
Louis Rosa, 33, a Santa Monica native who has a daughter and two step sons, was paralyzed from the waist down in a car crash involving a wrong-way driver in May 2010. The Chicano Harley Riders have organized a fundraiser to help Rosa, who has been living on limited income since his accident, purchase a wheelchair accessible vehicle.
The event is scheduled from 8 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday, July 6 at the Fraternal Order of Eagles club at 13018 W. Washington Blvd., east of Lincoln Boulevard in Del Rey. There will be live music and a DJ, as well as raffles and 50/50 drawings. Admission is $10.
Motorcycle group members say they are inspired by Rosa’s positive attitude despite the accident that put him in a wheelchair. Many of the riders know Rosa through his uncle, Dennis, who will perform with his band Coastline at the benefit event.
“If you were to meet him, he’s so upbeat and very inspirational,” Venice native and Harley Rider Michael Lozano said of Rosa.
“He just doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. He has no bad blood toward the other driver and doesn’t blame them; that’s what’s so good about it.”
Venice resident and fellow biker Rick Silva was equally moved by Rosa’s positive outlook on his situation.
“When I first met him I was amazed that he could be as upbeat as he was,” Silva said. “He’s always smiling and he’s not letting it get him down. He has kept a positive outlook on his life.”
Rosa says being in high spirits is nothing new for him, and although his life has dramatically changed he is grateful that he’s still alive.
“That’s always the way I’ve been. I’ve always been a positive, upbeat person,” said Rosa, who grew up in Santa Monica but now lives in Torrance. “I saw a lot of depression when I was in the hospital and I can’t let that happen.”
At the time of the accident Rosa was living in Kentucky, where his wife’s family is from, and had started a painting business there. He was driving to work in his van one day when another vehicle merged into his lane traveling the wrong way. Rosa said after he counter-swerved to avoid a head-on collision, his van flipped four times and his back was broken in several places in the crash.
He has been confined to a wheelchair for more than two years but can move his arms and can feel pressure in his upper body, though he has trouble feeling hot or cold sensations. Rosa says he has taken his condition day by day and makes sure to stay strong for his family, especially his youngest child.
“I’ve got a 5-year-old daughter and I have to stay strong for her,” he said.
Rosa has not allowed his condition to prevent him from being active, as he has learned to surf with Life Rolls On, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people affected by spinal cord injuries through action sports. He has also continued to swim and aspires to take up scuba diving.
Prior to his accident, Rosa enjoyed going for rides on his 1980 Yamaha motorcycle, saying it was “like an addiction.”
Silva and Lozano said that once they learned of Rosa’s situation and that his family struggled to receive strong support at a previous fundraiser, they wanted to hold a larger event and encourage more people to donate to the cause.
The Harley Riders are like a family, they say, and they take pride in giving back to the community.
“This is what we do,” Lozano said of how the members support each other, adding that riders’ family members also take part in many events.
Silva also spoke of how the group is tight-knit. “We go out and help each other out whenever we need it. It’s something that brings us all together and it helps us feel good about giving back to the community.”
Noting how he showed Rosa pictures of himself before and after the accident, Lozano said Rosa’s attitude appears to be unchanged, as he has the exact same smile. Rosa said he has applied for a mentoring program at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in Downey to assist others facing new injuries.
He admitted that he was nearly brought to tears in learning of how the Harley Riders chose to step up to make a difference in his life.
“It’s an awesome feeling that there are people like that out there who care about the community and people who have unfortunate accidents,” Rosa said.
For information on how to donate to the Rosa family, (310) 941-5712, or firstname.lastname@example.org.