When JoJo Kordik rides through town, adults stop and smile.
Children wave and cheer.
Even the cops are inclined to blare their sirens.
Kordik readily admits the reception has nothing to do with him. The
56-year-old Merrionette Park road maintenance worker says, "It’s all
about the dog."
Snowbaby, an 8-year-old Siberian Husky, loves to ride on the back of
Kordik’s 2005 Ultra Classic Harley-Davidson. Wearing "doggles," she
sits in a custom-made basket that has a built-in harness.
Kordik had to weigh Snowbaby and take her measurements sitting down
before he could order the all-leather, fur-lined seat from Beast Riders
"It’s specifically made for my model, but it can be modified to fit
any motorcycle," he said. Straps hold Snowbaby secure in three places.
Kordik’s been riding Snowbaby around the Southland, and even as far north as the Wisconsin border, for the past five years.
"She’s got 16,000 miles under her," he said, many of them logged in
parades and Toys For Tots events. She rode in the Mokena Fourth of July
parade and the Manteno Veteran’s Run.
Kordik’s a member of the Oak Lawn chapter of Illinois Harley Owners
Group and Hogs for Hope, a nonprofit group of Harley-Davidson owners
who help raise funds for Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.
"I always sell the most chances for Hope – 3,500 this year," he said. "But I cheat. I use the dog."
The impressive bike and the extensive tattoos belie a soft spot in
Kordik’s heart for sick children. Perhaps because he was one.
He endured several bouts of pneumonia as a child and at one point
doctors told his mother he would likely die. At 16, he was diagnosed
with scoliosis. When he was 23, he had surgery and today his spine is
completely fused from the base of his neck to his tailbone.
"I live in pain, but I figure I can sit here and worry or get out and do something to help others," he said.
The kids are the ones who benefit from his outings with Snowbaby.
And the kids are the ones who are his biggest fans when he passes them
on the streets.
"They go nuts," he said.
Adults can be just as awe-struck, though. Once Kordik was stopped by two cops who said, "See you got your co-pilot with you."
To which Kordik replied, "Nope, she’s my seeing-eye dog."
Snowbaby seems to enjoy the attention, although it took a good six months for her to get acclimated to the ride.
When she was first placed in the harness, she went wild. She didn’t like being constrained, Kordik said.
"She’d shake the bike so bad, I’d have to stop," he said.
But now she loves it. She has her own vest and when she hears the sound of a motor revving, her ears perk up.
Despite her celebrity status in the community, Kordik said, Snowbaby is not a big fan of the dark glasses.
"She gets fed up with them sometimes," he said, "and flings them while we’re riding."