Biker groups bring toys, smiles to kids at Everett hospital

EVERETT — The squadron of insignia-wearing, black-clad bikers arrived with military punctuality.

The one they call “Rotten” thundered to a stop astride a customized Harley-Davidson with ape-hanger handlebars. More than two dozen brother and sister bikers had his back as they swarmed the hospital entrance on Saturday afternoon.

Most had survived hell. Today, they weren’t messing around.

They popped open small trailers some of the motorcycles were towing to reveal a cache — of stuffed animals and other toys.

“For us, it’s all about giving back to the community,” said “Rotten,” aka Jerry Remington of Everett.

Remington, 48, is the local chapter president of the Unchained Brotherhood, a motorcycle club that helps men overcome drug addiction. He’s about to celebrate his 10th year in recovery.

A clean-and-sober motorcycle association called the Alky Angels had invited the Unchained Brotherhood to join them Saturday in delivering toys for children being treated at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

It’s something the Alky Angels have done for more than a decade. The group had just made a toy delivery to Providence in June, but that supply dried up about three weeks ago.

“The hospital called me and said they were out toys, so we put one together quick,” said Norm Selset, of Snohomish, president of the Alky Angels Sky Valley Chapter.

Saturday’s donation came thanks in part to a steep discount from Prospector Liquidation in Everett.

The shipment filled up two oversize cribs parked outside a north entrance to the hospital.

“That’s really our only source of toys for the children,” said Deborah Long, a pediatric nurse who helped coordinate the donation. “It’s really a great service they provide.”

Andrea Torres, 6, of Marysville, sat in a wheelchair clutching a new white bear, courtesy of the clean-and-sober biker crew. She hoped to head home soon, after being treated for a kidney infection.

The toys go to children in situations such as having an IV started, or after returning from surgery. They’re even used to put the occasional adult at ease.

“Stuffed animals are usually what they want,” Long said of the children. “It helps alleviate their anxiety considerably. We’re not as intimating that way.”

Not only do the toys make hospital workers in white coats less intimidating, they do the same for motorcycle enthusiasts decked out in black leather.

“This is a way to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Selset said.

The 55-year-old leader knows about problems. Selset overcame an alcohol addiction that netted him three drunken driving charges before he went sober at age 27.

His Alky Angels chapter, like others throughout the Northwest, brings together men and women with the same two-wheeled passion.

“A lot of times, when we give up our drugs and our alcohol, we don’t know what to do,” he said.

Not everyone in the pack is a recovering alcoholic or drug addict. Some are “normies” — people who can drink normally, or in moderation, without getting into trouble. Most who fall into that category are relatives or family of other members in recovery.

The group stands ready to help when individual members need it.

Jeff Coles, 47, of Lynnwood, has been riding with the Alky Angels for about seven months. He earned his nickname “Flip” on Aug. 14. He has two arm casts to show for it.

He had been traveling to an Alky Angels campout in Yakima when he crashed at 70 mph, sending him and his Harley Sportster end over end. He woke up about 15 minutes later.

Coles said the other Angels have been with him at every turn, as he heals from the compound fractures he suffered in both arms.

“I’ve been wanting to be an Alky Angel since 1990, but wasn’t able to clean myself up,” he said.

Shelly Nelson, 49, of Snohomish, is the secretary of the association’s Sky Valley chapter. Nelson said she got involved as part of her alternative sentencing in drug court.

“I was basically given a choice: get clean and sober or do prison time,” she said.

By that point in her life, she said her record included felony gun, drug and theft charges.

There’s a word these bikers use for drink- and drug-related problems: wreckage.

“I created a lot of wreckage with my meth usage,” Nelson said.

Said Selset: “That’s what we call the chaos and the trouble we got into — the wreckage of the past.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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