Tag Archives: East Coast Car Association

East Coast Car Association keeps ‘cruising’

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Mike Bilski

For 12 years, the East Coast Car Association (ECCA) hosted an annual Cruise Night that showcased antique cars and raised funds for St. Mary’s Hospital for Children, all in a Forest Hills McDonald’s parking lot.

But this year, Mike Bilski of the ECCA was told McDonald’s could not host the Cruise Night because of corporate policies. With that, he and other members went looking around for a new venue.

“There we were, we had no Cruise Night,” he said. “We were trying all of the churches [but] nobody wanted us.”

Enter State Senator Joseph Addabbo. One night, Bilski was driving back from a friend’s house when he passed Resorts World Casino.

“I thought to myself, ‘[that lot] is empty,’ he said.

Bilski and the ECCA crew were referred to Addabbo, who met with Resorts World and worked out a deal. Now, the casino holds the Cruise Night every Tuesday from 5 to 9 p.m. in its VIP parking lot.

“For years, that association and its members have not only displayed some of the most beautiful cars of past generations, but they have also made substantial contributions to the community, especially the younger residents,” Addabbo said.

Bilski said the casino also donates to St. Mary’s, which was happy to see the ECCA’s nonprofit endeavors continue.

Since the VIP lot is larger than the ECCA’s previous home in Forest Hills, the Cruise Night can now accommodate more vehicles. The events have featured as many as 100 custom and antique cars and 50 motorcycles along with pick-up trucks and antique bicycles.

“We’re able to raise more money, and we’re getting a very diverse crowd and a very diverse range of cars,” Bilski said. “It’s not just antique cars anymore. We’re getting a lot of imports, low-riders and tuner cars.”

Attendees must contribute a $3 donation to each Cruise Night. The event will go on every Tuesday through November at Resorts World.

On Sunday, August 4 they will host an additional Cruise Night at Maspeth Federal and another the following day at Atlas Park.



Star of Queens: Bob Widdows

| MKirk@queenscourier.com


Star of Queens: Bob Widdows

President, East Coast Car Association

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Bob Widdows became president of the East Coast Car Association (ECCA) after Eddie Walter, the organization’s founder, passed away in 2007. Widdows says the ECCA currently has around nine members who work together to organize car shows and cruise nights, which are held every Tuesday and Saturday night and consist of getting together at a park or a parking lot to socialize and work on cars. The East Coast Car Association’s main purpose, however, is to raise money and host an annual toy run for St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children in Bayside.

“It’s not a traditional car club,” Widdows said. “There are no dues, we just give back to the community.”

PERSONAL: Widdows has been involved with the ECCA since its inception in 1999. He currently lives in Glendale and in his spare time he likes to work on cars and plan events for the Association. He prides the car club on having what he calls “a very loyal following.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: Widdows says his favorite memory is East Coast Car Association’s annual toy drive, in which participants bring new, unwrapped toys to St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children. After the children come down to pick out their toys, St. Mary’s is presented a check with all of the money ECCA raised over the year.

“That’s the high point of the year, the culmination of all our efforts,” he said.

INSPIRATION: Widdows says he has always been inspired by the Association’s founder, Eddie Walter. He praises Walter for getting involved with helping St. Mary’s along with creating a place for people with like-minded views to give back as well.

“Once people get involved, many stay for years,” Widdows said. “It’s a good thing to do. We keep it in Eddie’s memory.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: In the early years of the ECCA, Widdows said it was difficult getting through all of the paperwork in order to be officially recognized as a charity by the government.

“That was the biggest hurdle,” he said, adding that by remaining persistent, they were able to overcome the obstacle.

As for right now, the biggest problem the organization runs into is losing space for their shows, but Widdows remains optimistic, saying that they usually manage to pull it off.

ECCA toy run raises $14,000

| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Mike DiBartolomeo

They dug deep to give back, and one little girl stood out in the big-hearted crowd.

            On Sunday, November 13, 150 cars, motorcycles and trucks set out from Forest Park for the East Coast Car Association’s (ECCA) 13th annual toy run to benefit St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children.

            With donations of toys and much-needed supplies, this year’s toy run tallied $14,000 for the children of St. Mary’s.

            “We have a lot of followers who have stayed with us all these years and have helped us out,” said Lou Buglione, ECCA vice president.

            But this year one little girl truly gave from her heart.

            About a month ago seven-and-a-half-year-old Ashley LaRotonda of Ozone Park told her father she wanted to sell her jewelry.

            “We thought she’d buy something for herself,” said proud grandma Joanne Antongiovanni.

            But instead, Ashley, a second-grader at P.S. 207 in Howard Beach, decided to give the money – $50 – to the ECCA and the children of St. Mary’s.

            According to Joanne, Ashley has been an honorary member of the ECCA since she was four, since her grandfather James, who has a 1938 Packard, brought her to her first toy run.

            “She always loved to help children and other people,” said grandma, who noted that when Ashley presented the check to the ECCA on stage, “she felt so good inside.”

            “She makes us smile,” said Joanne. “She is the apple of my husband’s eye.”

East Coast Car Association toy run set to roll

| mchan@queenscourier.com

The East Coast Car Association’s (ECCA) annual toy run is rolling around the corner.

The 13th annual toy run takes place this weekend, on Sunday, November 13.

ECCA President Bob Widdows said 75 to 100 cars are expected this year.

“It’s getting more successful each year because we have more and more people joining us,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing. We appreciate all the people that support us through the years and all the donations that they give us.”

Founded by past president Eddie Walter, the ECCA holds the toy run each year in November. All proceeds are donated to St. Mary’s Hospital for Children.

To date, the ECCA has raised more than $60,000 for the hospital since the toy run began in 1999. The organization has also pledged to give $25,000 to St. Mary’s for a treatment room in the new Patient Pavilion, dedicated to Walter.

This year, with vehicles assembling first at the parking lot in Forest Park Bandshell, the toy run makes its way through Queens — with a police escort to St. Mary’s — beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The event drew in 130 cars and motorcycles and $15,000 in donations last year.

“Hopefully, we should have good weather,” Widdows said.

Although the toy run typically collects toys to be donated to the children in the hospital, at the request of St. Mary’s, the ECCA asks participants to donate cash this year instead of toys.

Due to construction, St. Mary’s lacks storage space and will not be unable to store larger toys.

Once the new pavilion is completed in 2012, the ECCA said they will resume collecting toys and other necessary items for the hospital during future toy runs.

Star of Queens: Mike Bilski

| amanning@queenscourier.com

Mike Bilski

East Coast Car Association – Toys for Tots

Community Involvement: Since 2008, Mike Bilski has worked with the , a club dedicated to helping the children of St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital. He is also involved in numerous other organizations, including the Middle Village Veterans Day Parade Committee, the Edward R. Miller VFW Post 7336 and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 32 in Glendale.

Personal: Born and raised in Ridgewood, Bilski moved to Glendale 25 years ago. He tragically lost his oldest son, Michael, three years ago when he was 22 years old. He is the proud father of four children – Tiffany, 25, Joseph, 24, Brittany, 22, and Dylan, 15. Dylan, a varsity basketball player, often volunteers with him. His daughter Brittany will be singing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Queens Veterans Parade for the second time this year.

Biggest Challenge: “Convincing people that everything we do is for the children at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children. Also, trying to find more volunteers to help us at Cruise Nights and car shows – you don’t have to have a classic or souped-up car to help out.”

Favorite Memory: “I am a car guy and when I took my Falcon to the first car show my son Dylan was very young. We won a second place trophy. Dylan was so happy, he put it on his dresser. Seeing his face – words cannot express that feeling. Also, seeing the faces of the children at St. Mary’s after the toy run. I wish I was rich, I would give a million dollars a year to St. Mary’s.”

Inspiration: “My mom. Her whole life she took care of everyone, whether it was family, friends or a stranger who needed a hand. Three years ago, I lost my oldest son and it just made me double my efforts with volunteering to help others. I know everything I do for others on Earth will give a good after-life in Heaven.”