S.M.I.L.E.S. board member raises funds as Harley host

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Margaret Plevak | September 4, 2013

For April Southwick, Harley-Davidson's 110th anniversary celebration officially ended not Sunday, but yesterday, when the last two house guests/biker friends left her house near Darien and headed north for home, one to Calgary, the other to Vancouver.

Southwick, an attorney and a board member of Special Methods of Learning Equine Skills, the therapeutic riding center in Darien, hosted between 60 and 70 Harley-Davidson riders at her home last weekend. She and her husband are members of an owners group of Heritage Springers—a model Harley-Davidson built between 1997 and 2003 that's classic in its chrome-and-leather circa-1930s looks.

The 2,500 members of the Heritage Springers group come from across the United State and Canada. Besides the Canadians, Southwick also hosted riders from Georgia, New York and Boston.

The first wave of guests came in last Wednesday, and friends slept in the couple's guest bedrooms, laid out sleeping bags in their unfinished basement, camped in RVs on the property or stayed at blocks of hotel rooms reserved long before.

Southwick ended up doing the cooking, serving groups of between 25 and 80 people at a time. She was too busy wielding the spatula to attend any anniversary celebrations, but she has no regrets getting to mingle with friends.

“We live close enough to the Harley-Davidson Museum, we can see it any time,” she said. 

Southwick, a Texas transplant who's done volunteer work for therapeutic riding centers in the past, did ask her guests to donate to S.M.I.L.E.S. in a campaign dubbed, “Riders helping riders.” Contributions were still coming in, but so far, she's raised $3,670.

The Heritage Springers group regularly gets together on rallies, in spots that have ranged from the Pacific Northwest to a Civil War battlefield tour of Gettysburg.

This wasn't the first time Southwick and her husband hosted riders for a Harley anniversary.

“We had a much smaller rally for about 30 to 35 people at a campground for the 105th anniversary. But the park rangers kept coming around, telling us to quiet down,” she said. “This year, we told the neighbors far enough in advance, and everybody was good with the idea of the rally. And we knew since we live out in the country, this would work out. “

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