A Caring Community of Cars Fuels Philanthropy

‘Cars are our passion, but we use the cars to attract people to help the community’ – Road Knights President Giulio Elisio

Over 300 vintage cars and nearly a thousand people filled the Verplanck waterfront on a sunny Saturday afternoon, as the Road Knights Auto Club hosted its first show at Cortlandt Riverfront Park in September.  

The event featured vendors, live music, and of course awards given to some of the more exceptional automobiles. Local officials were also in attendance, including Cortlandt Town Supervisor Richard Becker, who presented some of the awards. 

“[Cortlandt] took us with open arms, and that’s where we’ll be in the future,” says Road Knights President Giulio Elisio. 

The Road Knights were founded in 1955 by brothers Joe and Jimmy Gurran, who built hot rods in their Peekskill garage. Their aim was to show that car clubs were more than just havens for the type of troublemaking delinquents featured in exploitation films of the era. 

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To that end, philanthropy and community involvement have been a priority for the Knights from the beginning. Over the years, they have contributed to libraries, food pantries, veterans’ organizations, and local families. 

Seven-year-old Lucas Canniff of Yorktown Heights, whose family was beneficiary of the event’s fundraising, picks the 50/50 raffle winner with the assistance of Brian Dee.

The recipient of the club’s September fundraising was the family of seven-year-old Lucas Canniff, a Yorktown Heights resident who has been paralyzed from the waist down since he was under a year old due to a blood clot in his spinal cord. 

“All the money that we raise goes to our community,” says Elisio. “Cars are our passion, but we use the cars to attract people to help the community.” 

In addition to smaller events the club hosts in towns throughout the area, the Road Knights hold two major car shows per year – one in the fall, and a “dust off” event in the spring. For the past 15 years these events have taken place at the Peekskill waterfront, and when it was time for a change of venue, the club wanted to keep the Hudson River as its backdrop. 

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“When you’re against the water, it’s really nice,” says Brian Dee, owner of Brian’s Automotive in Peekskill, who has been with the club since 1990. “We all decided we wanted a place on the water again.” 

Cortlandt’s association with the Road Knights has prompted several proposed improvements to the waterfront area including more access to electricity, an amphitheater, and a drive-in movie series complete with car hops delivering burgers and egg creams. 

“We’ve got irons in the fire with the town of Cortlandt,” says Dee. “They’ve been very receptive, and we can’t wait to work with them.” 

In addition to their charitable work, the Road Knights contribute to the community by driving business to restaurants and shops in the towns where their events are held. 

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“You’re getting a thousand, fifteen hundred people you wouldn’t normally see in your area,” says Dee. “It’s definitely good for business.” 

Fostering a sense of community and helping those in need has become every bit as important to the Road Knights as the cars themselves, according to Elisio. 

“The objective of the Road Knights is to show people that we are a united community,” he says. “We have to stick together and help each other.” 

Preparations are already underway for the club’s spring show, which they hope will build on the success of their September event. 

“It’s going to be phenomenal down there,” says Dee. “Wait another year, it’s going to be more cars and more fun.” 


Christian Larson, who lives in Peekskill, is Editor-at-Large of River Journal North, and host of its podcast RiverTalk. He is also an event planner. Visit him > capngoodtimes.com. 

 

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