BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — For motorcyclists, nothing compares to the feeling of being on the road on a sunny day, riding with friends or family.
“It’s a lot of fun. When you’re stressed out, you go for a ride and the wind takes it all away,” said Becky Zieroff, who learned to ride and got her permit to join her husband, Joe. “We got our licenses on the same day.”
For the Zieroffs, as well as the other members of the American Legion Riders (ALR), taking a ride takes on more meaning than just an afternoon on the road.
“When we ride, it’s to honor the fallen military men and women, and we ride to support local veterans and charities in our community,” said Joe, a veteran himself.
On Saturday, June 10, the Whitehouse American Legion Post 384 ALR will stage in front of the intersection of Providence and Waterville streets prior to the 1:00 p.m. start of the Cherry Fest parade, and then will ride past the announcer’s booth, to the end of the parade route and back to watch the parade.
“We’ve never been part of the parade before because air-cooled bikes get overheated on hot days if you’re riding slow. And because no one leads the colors,” Joe said, referring to the Post 384 color guard – members who carry the flags at the start of the parade.
In a quest to educate the public about what the ALR does, the group decided to take on a new role in the parade this year.
“We’re clearing the path for the safe passage of the colors and standing vigil,” Joe said. “We also want to show a presence – that we are doing good for the community.”
The ALR is not a motorcycle or biker club, he explained, but rather a group of friends who like to ride together while raising funds for charity. A July poker run raised money for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), which assists veterans with needs and in applying for benefits. A ride and a drive-thru chicken dinner raises money for Courageous Community Services, a local nonprofit that provides area children, teenagers and adults with disabilities with an opportunity to attend summer camp. Throughout the year, the ALR and Legion support Scout Pack and Troop 384.
“We’re directly impacting someone in the community – you or your spouse, your kids, grandkids, friends and neighbors. We’re out there to support the people in our community,” Joe said.
The ALR was founded in 1993 by two men from American Legion Post 396 in Garden City, Mich. Since then, the organization has grown to over 110,000 riders in 2,000 chapters worldwide. The Ohio and national ALR host events such as the Legacy Run to raise funds for scholarships given to children of U.S. military personnel who have been killed since September 11, 2001. The 100 Miles for Hope virtual fundraiser aids the American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation, which feeds and houses children of military personnel and veterans facing urgent, unexpected hardships.
Through rides, silent auctions, raffles and 50/50 drawings, funds are raised for these national and local organizations.
Local businesses that have been generous throughout the years continue to donate, and 50/50 raffle winners often donate the money back to the cause. Post 384 members are generous in their support of the ALR goal to raise funds for charity as well, Joe said.
The Whitehouse American Legion is accepting applications for membership from those who are veterans or a direct descendent of a veteran, such as a parent or grandparent. A Form DD-214 or obituary listing that family member’s service is proof of relation. Once admitted, the Legion has several organizations, including the ALR, the Sons of the American Legion (SAL), Junior SAL, an auxiliary for spouses of veterans and a junior auxiliary for children of veterans. At 6 months old, Victoria Leonard, daughter of veteran Eric Leonard, is the youngest member of the Whitehouse American Legion, and several members are in their 80s and 90s.