LEHMAN TWP. —Sporting a pink and black Betty Boop bomber jacket, dark sunglasses and a blue doo rag pulled tight over her head, 9-year-old Arianna Root balanced on the back seat of her soon-to-be-step-father’s Harley-Davidson as she waited for Sunday’s Carrie Martin Memorial and Scholarship Bike Run to begin.
“I’m very excited,” said Arianna, of Forty Fort. “I’ve never done one of these before. This is great.”
Jim Willauer, 56, also of Forty Fort, and his riding partner, Arianna, joined scores of other bikers for the 77-mile ride, which began at the Luzerne County Fairgrounds.
“I’ve done this one several times,” said Willauer, who said he has known Martin’s family for years.
Within moments, the air filled with the rumble of engines as the massive procession rolled out of the parking lot. The route led the bikers through country roads in the Back Mountain and ended at The Beaumont Inn in Beaumont, where the event continued with food and live entertainment.
Carrie Martin was 20 when she was stabbed to death in her Larksville apartment in May 2004.
One assailant, Daniel Kukuchka, committed suicide while awaiting trial. The other, Joseph Gacha Jr., is serving a life sentence after his September 2006 first-degree murder conviction.
Proceeds from the ride go to the Carrie Martin “We Can Make a Better Place” Memorial Scholarship Fund, administered by the Luzerne Foundation. The annual scholarship is awarded to a student at West Side Area Career and Technology Center in Pringle.
Carrie was a 2002 graduate of the school. Martin’s mother, Wendy Cadwalader, has organized the event for the past nine years.
“She was a beautiful woman who was taken from us too soon,” said Suzanne Dudeck, 43, of Plains. “It’s a shame her family has to go through so much heartache,” she said.
Dudeck’s said her daughter and Cadwalader’s daughter, Katie Joe Cadwalader take classes together at Huntzinger’s Karate and would be performing a demonstration at the event later in the evening.
“I wish more people would come out to support this,” Dudeck said. Katie Joe is also Carrie Martin’s younger sister.
Butch and Donna Grey, Carrie’s grandparents, recalled their kind-hearted, talented granddaughter, who was also a Special Olympics volunteer and a Luzerne County Fair Queen.
“It’s always hard, this time of year,” said Donna. “Her birthday was just two weeks after she was murdered.”
The Greys said the scholarship is given to students who possess the same qualities as their granddaughter.
“It’s given to someone who does a lot of community service,” said Donna. “It’s for someone who is a good person and has a giving heart.”