Riding for veterans

Stand Up for Vets motorcyclists get ready to pull out of Cascade Park on their 50-mile ride around Lawrence County.

Decades ago, Cascade Park was the place to go for rides.

This weekend, it donned that destination description once again.

But whereas former rides such as the Tumblebug, The Comet or the miniature train were solely for amusement, Saturday’s event was a community outreach.

About 100 motorcyclists turned out to ride for the second annual Stand Up for Vets to help raise money for October’s Veterans Stand Down, which is aimed at helping homeless veterans.

“What Stand Down does,” organizer and Stand Down chairman Missy Russell told those who turned out Saturday, “is provide a bunch of services for homeless veterans in the county — also service members and homeless civilians.

“When they come to Stand Down, they can get many different items. They can get health screenings, they can get a free meal, clothing, there’s surplus for our veterans as well as a bunch of different referrals from all over the counties.”

Among the agencies present at Saturday’s motorcycle run were ABATE, VFW Post 315, VA Butler Healthcare and Lawrence County Community Action Partnership’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which sponsored the event.

“What that program does,” explained Russell, “is that we house homeless veterans, and we can do that down at LCCAP. We have over 21 counties that we are able to house homeless veterans or those that are precariously housed within those counties.”

Last year, more than 200 bikers turned out for the inaugural Stand Up for Vets run. Organizers had hoped to attract at least 300 this year, but although sunny skies prevailed at the time the bikes departed for their 50-mile, police-escorted ride around the county, earlier rain and the threat of more appeared to keep numbers down.

It did not, however, deter Bryce Reigh, who comes from a military family and who also participated in last year’s event.

Reigh said he came out to “support veterans who can’t be here, who are here, celebrate with them, just show some support for who really deserves it.”

He added that he had spread the word about last year’s effort and “Generally, if you mention ‘veterans’ in my circle of friends, they’re here.”

Fundraisers come in all shapes and sizes, but when it came time to come up with one for Stand Down, Marcus Russell said, a motorcycle ride seemed a natural.

“I love riding motorcycles,” he said. “A friend of mine is a motorcycle cop. And we wanted to raise money for Stand Down, which my wife is president of, so I said we’re going to do a motorcycle run, and we put it together in two months last year.

“We made it happen and got some good turnout. If it were a nice day today, I think there’d be way more bikes coming out.”

Still, Marcus Russell noted, Saturday’s event featured a few more vendors than the year before, and there were to be three bands providing post-ride entertainment, as opposed to just one last year.

Bikers also were to be treated to a meal upon their return to the park.

A second Stand Down fundraiser — this one a golf outing — is scheduled for August. For more information about that event, call LCCAP at (724) 658-7528.

d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com

Editor

Dan, editor, started with The News in 1978 and spent 10 years as a sports writer. He's been a general assignment reporter, copy editor, paginator and Lifestyle editor. He's a '78 Slippery Rock University graduate with a B.A. in English.

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