CAMP VERDE - The American Legion Riders of the Verde Valley organize motorcycle rides to raise funds for veterans' causes, but it is rare that they take on a community cause.
A big exception last month was a special ride for the Kelsea Freeman Fund. Kelsea, a Camp Verde girl, has cystic fibrosis, and complications have meant she may need a liver transplant soon. Many in the community have jumped on board to help raise funds for the family's medical bills. The Riders' director, Bill Carter, felt they should be involved, too.
The ride across the Verde Valley (plus a last-minute donation to accomplish a nice round number) netted $3,500 for the family.
The cause may have been atypical, but not the generosity of the American Legion Riders of the Verde Valley.
The Riders have four to five fund-raising runs a year. One of the Legion Riders' central projects is the American Legacy Scholarship. The program provides college funds for children of active duty servicemen and women killed on or after Sept. 11, 2001. You'll see them in almost every parade. They also offer a Welcome Home escort for military personnel. Just give them a call.
"We Vietnam vets did not get a welcome home," Carter says. "So we decided, "Let's welcome these guys home.' We offer an escort for the men and women home on leave. We get the public involved as much as we can and escort them to the post for a ceremony and thank them for their service."
The local chapter represents Post 93 in Camp Verde and Post 25 in Cottonwood. During the local group's six years of existence, it has grown to more than 80 members from all over the Verde Valley.
The Riders come from all walks of life and served in very different eras. There are Korean War veterans, World War II veterans and largely Vietnam War veterans. They are also bringing in Gulf veterans. For many, the only thing they have in common is the brotherhood of military service and the cause of the Riders.
Legion Riders must be members in good standing of the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary or Sons of the American Legion. They must also own a motorcycle of at least 350cc engine displacement.
The national organization was started at a Michigan post in 1993. They had bylaws and an emblem and were intent on furthering the cause of the Legion. Since then, groups have sprung up at posts all over the country to raise money for VA hospitals, veterans relief and children's programs.
The American Legion Riders are a family-oriented organization. Veterans of active-duty military service already have the affinity of the dark days of combat, and the Riders organization offers the opportunity to tighten the bonds that bind with charity work and lots of relaxing trips on the scenic byways.
For more information about the American Legion Riders of the Verde Valley, call the Legion posts at (928) 567-6154 or 634-3004.