During the 2018 Miami International Boat Show, Danny DeSantis, a former championship-winning offshore racer who owns McLaren dealerships in Boston and Charlotte, N.C., took delivery of an immaculate Skater Powerboats 388 catamaran. Powered by Mercury Racing 1100 engines, the 38-footer is the kind of ride most go-fast boat fans dream of owning. Throughout the show, attendees packed the Skater display docks to stare and it.
And though DeSantis has owned almost every model the Douglas, Mich., custom high-performance boat company has ever built and the 388 is his hands-down favorite, it’s not his dream ride. Far from it, in fact.
Danny DeSantis’ dream ride has nothing to do with his spectacular 38-foot Skater Powerboats catamaran. Photo by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix/speedonthewater.com.
DeSantis reserves that distinction for an actual event called the Dream Ride, an annual motorcycle rally of sorts that attracts participants from around the world to raise money for Special Olympics athletes. Led by his friend Michael Bozzuto, what started as a motorcycle getaway with five or six riders who made multiple stops in Connecticut has become an event that attracts thousands and raises millions—to the tune of $2.3 million in 2019. DeSantis personally has raised more than $300,000 for the cause since he got involved.
The event’s core group was based out of Connecticut and other parts of the Northeast. Many of those involved had second homes in South Florida, so the Sunshine State became their starting point.
“We normally ride our motorcycles from Florida to Connecticut the week before the Special Olympics there,” DeSantis said. “We stopped in different towns and states on the way up and donated money to the athletes at each stop and the money got distributed everywhere across the country. It grew bigger and bigger to the point where we would raise enough money to bring 400 Special Olympians and their families to Farmington (Conn.) for the weekend with all expenses paid so they could enjoy the best days of their lives. We take them out fishing on our boat and we take for rides in the Skater for fun.”
DeSantis isn’t the only well-known member of the performance boating community involved. “Tom Abrams donates a large amount of money every year,” he said. “And it has grown worldwide to bring in athletes from other countries. Our goal is to make them feel like a million bucks for a weekend.”
In a typical year, some 5,000 riders might appear on Saturday at the Farmington Polo Grounds host venue and end point. But with the COVID-19 pandemic changing life as we know it, 2020 is anything but a typical year.
This time around, the Dream Ride, which is set for August 21-23 and is celebrating its 20th anniversary, will be a local happening. DeSantis said the organizers are expecting 400 to 500 motorcycles and 400 to 500 exotic automobiles and vintage hot rods, as well as a lighter turnout of approximately 400 Connecticut-based Special Olympians.
DeSantis knows the event, though smaller than usual, will delight everyone involved. But he is concerned about its fundraising efforts in the specter of the novel coronavirus pandemic. To that end, he reached out to his friends via email this week.
“The Dream Ride Experience is more than just an event—it is a movement of making dreams come true,” he wrote. “ I understand that this year has been tough for everyone, but every bit matters. My hope is that everyone will help by donating to this amazing cause.”
Said DeSantis (right) captured here with fellow Skater enthusiast Ron Szolack, “Our goal is to make them feel like a million bucks for a weekend.”
Editor’s note: Click here to join speedonthewater.com in donating on behalf of Danny DeSantis to the 2020 Dream Ride.