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In memory of Ken: This year’s annual Ride for the Troops to honor deceased co-founder

This Sunday’s Ride for the Troops event will honor Ken Donaghue, one of the co-founders of the ride who died in a motorcycle accident last year. Pioneer file photo

BEMIDJI -- The roar of motorcycles will honor the memory of Ken Donaghue on Sunday while continuing his legacy of helping veterans and their families.

The 9th annual Ride for the Troops will ride on without Donaghue, who was the co-founder of the event. The ride was first created to raise money to help troops and their families during deployment and after the soldiers returned home. Donaghue died last year at age 67 in a motorcycle accident.

Organizers of the event have been hard at work to continue Donaghue's legacy. Wayne Johnson, a Ride for the Troops committee member, said Donaghue played an important role in the planning of the annual ride.

"Ken did so much, it left a lot of holes," Johnson said of his death.

Vince Beyl, who also serves on the Ride for the Troops committee, has been riding in the event since it started nine years ago, only missing when he had military commitments. He fondly recalled a time when Donaghue called him and some other people in order to organize a welcoming committee for a returning soldier.

"Anybody that knows him knows that Ken was a stand up guy. Anything that had to do with veterans, you could always count on Ken," Beyl said.

Beyl said the ride's 130-mile route will pass the spot where Donaghue was killed, which will be marked with a flag.

According to Johnson, planning for the ride started in the fall and the 12-member committee meets once a month. He also said all money raised from the ride will go to supporting soldiers and their families.

"We can only help so many people but we try to help as many as we can," Johnson said.

Johnson said Marketplace Foods has played a major role in the sponsorship of the ride. "Marketplace is a huge donor. Marketplace takes care of the tent and the food."

Mike McNeil, Marketplace Foods store director, said about 1,000 people are fed at both the breakfast and the lunch provided during the day.

"It's an opportunity for anyone that wants to be involved in it to gather and honor our service members and their families. For me that a big part -- having families see a group of people supporting them," McNeil said.

Registration for the ride is $25 for riders and $10 for passengers. A freewill donation pancake breakfast for both riders and non-riders is at 9 a.m.

The ride will start at noon and motorcyclists will travel to Becida and then to Zerkel, where they will stop for a short break. After lunch, the ride continues to Naytahwaush, through Itasca State Park, and on to Shevlin before looping back to Bemidji.

For more information on Ride for the Troops visit

Ride FYI

What: Ninth annual Ride for the Troops, 130 miles leaving from and returning to Bemidji.

When: 9 a.m. Sunday

Where: Marketplace Foods, Westridge Center, Bemidji.

Cost: Registration for the ride is $25 for riders and $10 for passengers. A freewill donation pancake breakfast for both riders and non-riders starts at 9 a.m.