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Web Note: Mass 1,2,4, RI1, and Conn chapters were present on the ride.

Bikers raise over $18,000 for Bish Fund


Monday, September 11, 2000

By Bradford L. Miner
Telegram & Gazette Staff


WARREN-- Bright sun, blue skies and rolling thunder reverberated through the hills of western Worcester County.
         More than 1,000 motorcycles made a 60-mile loop through the Brookfields, Spencer, Barre, Hardwick and Ware yesterday morning to raise money for the Molly Bish Fund.
         Sponsored by the East Brookfield Police Association, the event raised more than $18,000, which was turned over after the ride to John and Magdalen Bish, parents of the 17-year-old who has been missing since June 27.
         At the end of the ride, Paul Valley, president of the police association, presented the Bishes with three checks totaling $18,344.
         The Bishes addressed the cyclists and expressed gratitude for delivering a “miracle.”
         Mr. Bish said the money raised would be used, if necessary, to further the family's own investigation into his daughter's disappearance and to promote safety awareness for other families.
         State Rep. Reed V. Hillman, R-Sturbridge, said he would add $10,000 from his campaign fund to the $20,000 reward already posted for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whomever is responsible for Molly's disappearance.
         Mr. Hillman, state Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, and state Rep. David H. Tuttle, R-Barre, all pledged to work for legislation to provide more protection for families and children and less for criminals.
         All three called for the removal from the bench of Superior Court Judge Maria I. Lopez, who has been soundly criticized as being too lenient in sentencing a Dorchester man for kidnapping and sexual assault of a 12-year-old boy.
         Mr. Valley said the East Brookfield Police Association decided it wanted to do something for the Bish family that would make a difference, and came up with the idea of the 60-mile motorcycle ride. It started at the Warren Community Elementary School off South Street in West Warren.
         As scores of motorcycles turned down the school drive yesterday morning, Mr. Valley speculated that he might have “created a monster,” but after the 90-minute ride, all reported that “everything went without a hitch.”
         Matt Simmons of Brookfield and his 9-year-old son, Bryan, were first in line for the ride, arriving at the school about 7:30 a.m.
         “We're here to support the Bish family, help raise money for the investigation and enjoy the camaraderie of riding with a lot of other motorcyclists,” Mr. Simmons said.
         Chris Folvi, a Springfield motorcyclist, said he had been following developments in the Bish case throughout the summer on television and wanted to do what he could to resolve the case.
         John Sacco and his wife, Amy, of Ware, were joined by two-dozen of Mr. Sacco's fellow Air National Guard members from the 104th Fighter Wing, which is based at the Westfield Barnes Air National Guard Base.
         “When I saw the article in the paper, I got a bunch of guys together. We had drill this weekend and our bosses were kind enough to give us the time off so we could take part in the ride,” he said.
         “A lot of these guys have kids and wanted to do something, but what can you do? When we saw the benefit ride in the paper we said, 'That's it.' ”
         Spencer Selectman Vincent P. Cloutier and his wife, Brenda, were among the riders.
         “This is a great cause and we'd do anything we could to show our support for the Bish family,” he said.
         Mrs. Bish told the bikers before the start of the ride, “This is the most difficult road that any parent could walk,” and that the journey has been possible because of continuing support for her family.
         She and her husband made their way along the phalanx of parked motorcycles in the school drive and parking lot, shaking hands, hugging and exchanging words of encouragement.
         “For your love and support, we are touched immensely,” Mrs. Bish said. “When we talk about our hearts being broken, it's obvious as I look around that you are all trying to glue them back together. This is just another way of people expressing their concern for each other.
         “If this is Molly's legacy, what greater gift can we have? It's a beautiful day and we want it to be a joyful day,” Mrs. Bish said.
         Taking the microphone from his wife, Mr. Bish told the crowd, “For the past 75 days, we've been praying for a miracle ... and this really looks like one. We are deeply touched and cannot express fully enough our gratitude for your presence here today.
         “By being here today, you are helping to make sure that no other child is missing. You are helping to raise awareness and increase the safety for families everywhere,” Mr. Bish said.
         Mrs. Bish read a poem, a tribute to bikers, written by a Worcester woman, with the theme that “in bikers you will always find a lasting friend.”
         Douglas Blood of the North Brookfield Police Department led the procession, driving the Bish family in an unmarked North Brookfield cruiser.
         “Everything went smoothly. Looking in the rearview mirror there was a long line of motorcycles,” he said.
         Mr. Brewer said the turnout would color his thinking and that of his colleagues when legislation affecting motorcyclists came before the Senate or the House.
         His remarks drew a loud cheer.
         He also advised them: “In your travels, keep your eyes and ears open. Be aware of what you see and hear, and no matter how insignificant it might seem, if you come across something, pick up the phone and make the call.”
         Mr. Brewer said he and his legislative colleagues would do their part to see that the district attorney's office has the money it needs to continue the investigation, and the search for Molly Bish.
         “We'll do our part, but we need your help. You may see or hear the one little thing that will bring closure to this case,” he said.
         “My colleagues and I are working on legislation that guarantees the swiftness and certainty of punishment for those who would violate and prey upon our children,” Mr. Brewer said. “If we have a Supreme Judicial Court that will not give us a sexual offender registry law with some teeth in it, then maybe we ought to make some changes on the Supreme Judicial Court.”
         He further suggested Judge Lopez, “who considers kidnapping and sex offenses as minor crimes, should consider stepping down from the bench and not take the money of hardworking taxpayers.”
         Mr. Hillman thanked East Brookfield Police Association for sponsoring the event and the more than a thousand riders “for helping the Bish family to carry the terrible emotional load of Molly's absence.”
         Mr. Hillman said that during his 25 years as a member of the state police he had gotten to know John Bish well, working with him in the probation office at Dudley District Court.
         “As a matter of fact, I think I've stopped most everyone here,” he said, drawing applause and laughter.
         “When Molly was first reported missing, there was some thought that she might have been abducted by someone who knew John in his capacity as a probation officer.
         “I have to tell you that John Bish was the best probation officer I ever worked with. There was nobody fairer, more polite, more consistent, more compassionate and more professional than John Bish,” Mr. Hillman said.
         Acknowledging the prayers for Molly's safe return, Mr. Hillman said, “We know that the Lord sometimes calls back people before their time.”
         “On this Sunday, Lord, we do ask you for something. We ask for closure. If Molly has been the victim of some criminal act, we ask for justice here and in the hereafter,” he said.
         Addressing the Bishes, Mr. Hillman said, “Maggie and John ... know that your terrible personal trial has not been in vain. All across America, parents are more cognizant of their children's safety and potential predators are finding children more protected and less vulnerable. Your sacrifice has saved the lives of other children.”


2000 Worcester Telegram & Gazette


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