Ride for the Troops ready to roll June 10
Bemidji's first Ride for the Troops was a smashing success, considering the small group of people who planned it in the spring of 2006.
The motorcycle ride drew about 160 bikers and raised $10,600 for 57 members of the Bemidji unit of the Minnesota Army National Guard who were serving in Iraq.
Considering the beefed-up number of planners, sponsors, donors and volunteers for this year's event, optimism is building.
It will be held June 10, starting and ending at MarketPlace Foods & Drug in the Westridge Shopping Center.
"I think it's going to be bigger this year, because everybody knows about it this time," said Jason Fredenburg of Bemidji, who organized last year's event along with Ken Donahue.
"We were just going to put a ride together and give away a few phone cards to the troops," said Fredenburg, a power sports technician at Lakeland Motor & Sport. "We just wanted to do something for the troops, let them know there are people from their community who are thinking about them. It was more about that than the money."
Staff Sgt. Seth Martell of the local Guard unit agrees.
"We heard from many of the troops last year about how much they appreciated this event," Martell said. "They sometimes don't realize how much support there is for them in Bemidji. That meant more to them than anything else."
All the money raised will be used to purchase gift cards for 63 troops from the Bemidji unit. They can use the cards at PX stores. Martell says last year each of the soldiers received a card with about $185 in value, and much of it went to purchase items for Iraqi children.
"They bought soccer balls, school supplies, etc., to help their mission over there," Martell said. "Every young person who got a soccer ball is now an ally instead of an enemy. It made our troops' lives easier over there to be able to give to those communities."
The motorcycle route will take riders from MarketPlace south and west of Bemidji using county and state highways, with short stops in Zerkel and the Rock Creek convenience store across from the north entrance to Itasca State Park. There will be a police escort at the beginning and end of the ride.
The last leg will be from Wally's Oil in Wilton to MarketPlace.
The first 200 riders who sign up will receive a Ride for the Troops do-rag from Pepsi Nei Bottling, and a limited number of shirts will be available for purchase.
Area Boy Scouts will cook a pancake breakfast from 9-11:30 a.m. It will be served by the Family Readiness Group, which is made up of family members of the troops. MarketPlace will serve a "Hawg" sandwich lunch from noon to 4 p.m. Both will accept free-will donations.
Tickets will be sold for prize drawings, and cash donations will be accepted throughout the day.
"We get the business donations, but the community also has an opportunity to help," said Dan Voss, general manager of RP Broadcasting and organizing committee member. "Last year the riders were great, the businesses were great, but we also had some people from the community come out for breakfast and to make donations."
Here's how you can help
There are several ways to take part in this year's Ride for the Troops on June 10:
-- Ride your motorcycle on the 130-mile route starting and ending in the parking lot at MarketPlace Food & Drug. A $25 registration fee (plus $10 for an additional passenger) includes breakfast, the ride and a post-ride lunch. The ride will begin at noon and is expected to take about three hours. You may register from 9-11:30 a.m. on the day of the ride.
-- Have breakfast at the site from 9-11:30 a.m. The pancake breakfast will be prepared by area Boy Scouts and served by the Family Readiness Group, which is made up of families of the troops. A free-will donation will be accepted.
-- Have a "Hawg" sandwich lunch from noon to 4 p.m. at the site. It will be prepared by MarketPlace Food & Drug and served by volunteers and the Family Readiness Group. A free-will donation will be accepted.
-- Go to the event site anytime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and make a donation to the cause. You can cheer on the riders as they leave and/or greet them when they return.
-- Purchase tickets in a "stretch" drawing at $5 per stretch to have a chance to win donated prizes in a 4 p.m. drawing.