Tonawanda News — The American Legion Riders of Wheatfield are preparing to host the largest motorcycle rally in the group’s history later this month, and a big one even by national standards.
Beginning Aug. 17 through Aug. 21, the group of veterans and motorcycle enthusiasts based locally on Ward Road will join with hundreds of others from 41 states, in a ride from Western New York to Indianapolis, Ind., to raise money for children who have lost a parent fighting overseas.
“This is the biggest ride ever for the Wheatfield Legion Riders,” the group’s Director Sam Reeder said. “We’re going to have people from all over the country.”
A $50 registration fee from each of the anticipated 350 to 500 participants in the 2012 American Legion Riders Legacy Run goes to support a scholarship fund for the children of fallen soldiers.
Since 2004, the scholarship has netted $5.7 million nationally, and has awarded scholarships to 100 children so far, of between $2,000 and $5,000 apiece.
Reeder said it’s the first year the local chapter of the organization has hosted the 750 mile one-way ride, in large part because the American Legion’s Commander, Fang Wong, hails from New York City.
Wong approached legion members in this area earlier this year, looking to expand the event for the first time outside of Indianapolis.
“We had heard through a newsletter that the national organization was looking to start the ride in the Buffalo/Niagara area,” Reeder said.
As a result, just before 10 a.m. the ride will thunder down Niagara Falls Boulevard in North Tonawanda in an almost unprecedented spectacle before entering I-290 and beginning the long journey west.
Reeder said 10 riders in his personal group plan to make the trip all the way, while others will go as far as they can.
Still scores of out-of-state participants have already traveled from as far away as Hawaii and Alaska for the ride, and can be counted on to go the extra mile, along with at least 40 from New York state. The greatest number of riders in town will hail from Indiana itself, at 72.
All that is expected to make a real impression on communities along the way.
“We want to increase the awareness of the legacy fund so that people who lost a family member in the war are aware of it,” Reeder said.
Ultimately, he said a long-term fundraising goal of $20 million has been set to ensure the fund can become self-sustaining.