LIMA — A roar of 177 motorcycles rolled out of Lima Harley-Davidson’s parking lot Saturday afternoon for a 38-mile ride in support of the nation’s veterans.
Organized by Allen County’s Rolling Thunder chapter, Saturday’s “Feed the Need” event raised an estimated $6,000 for the veteran’s food pantries in both Allen and Shelby counties.
“It takes care of their needs,” Chapter President Jeff Leydig said. “And it fulfills our need to ride.”
Leydig said not every member of the chapter is a veteran, but members all support veteran causes. Raising money for veteran food pantries is one way they do so.
The group — consisting of 92 chapters nationwide — also lobbies for veteran issues on the federal level and supports other national veterans groups, such as “22 No More,” a mental health advocacy group focused on eliminating veteran suicides. Currently, Leydig said Rolling Thunder is focused on working with legislators to provide better healthcare for veterans returning home, especially for woman veterans who don’t receive the full breadth of health coverage they need.
On a chapter level, they’ve also provided escorts for soldiers’ remains and provide donations to veteran’s homes that may need a little extra material support.
As for the Saturday’s event, the group had been planning a ride to raise money for veterans food pantries for the last six months, and the preparation showed results. Last year, the local chapter held a similar event that drew in 27 bikers. This time around, the group gave the signal to ride to 177 bikers, many of whom had traveled across the state to participate.
“It’s wonderful. I’ve seen people here that I haven’t seen in at least six or eight months,” Chapter Vice President Jon Hicks.
Along with participating in the ride, attendees also got a meal out of the event, and raffle tickets were available when they got back.
Leydig said he was able to find a lot of support from the community in putting the raffle and prizes together. He said Midwest Shooting Center gave an impressive experience package, and a number of auto parts stores, such as Autozone, provided some items. Leydig also praised a $70 POW flag given to the group.
“(Rolling Thunder)’s a brotherhood,” Leydig said. “It’s like a family. When something big like this comes up, it’s a time for us to come together.”
Local chapter 10 also received some organizational help from Ohio’s chapter 2 out of Akron. Chapter 2 Treasurer and Squad Leader Trudy Kuhl had watched the motorcycles leave in the afternoon, and while she had stayed behind, she could attest to the number of veterans issues that the groups support.
“To be a member of Rolling Thunder, you don’t need to be a veteran or know how to ride,” Kuhl said. “It’s about supporting the cause.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.