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'I got goose bumps': Ride for the Troops sets record

Bruce Johnson of Laporte and his son Wesley were among the more than 580 riders who took part in the 2011 Ride for the Troops Sunday afternoon. Submitted Photo

Clear, blue skies helped make the sixth annual Ride for the the Troops a record-breaking event.

Starting and finishing at Market Place Foods, the Sunday afternoon ride featured more than 420 bikes and 580 riders.

More than $18,000 was raised before the riders took off, and $1,000 was donated by the Zerkel Store. More donations were given during the lunch and dinner celebration along with scratch tickets being sold. The combined donations ultimately rose over $20,000.

"With the amount of riders and community members stopping by, we are fortunate to have the volunteers that step up to lend a hand," said Tracy Bailey, traffic and promotions director at RP Broadcasting and organizer of the 2011 Ride for the Troops event. "These include but are not limited to JROTC, Civil Air Patrol, Boy Scouts, and Blue Star Moms."

The funds are used to help support veterans, deployed soldiers and their families when there is need.

"I got goose bumps during the opening ceremonies and watching the riders take off from Marketplace," Bailey said. "The same chills snuck up on me when the bikers, lead by the National Guard truck and motorcycles decked out with American flags, started rolling back in the parking lot just after 4:00 pm. I am so proud to be a part of this amazing event."

Sunday's Ride for the Troops set new records.

"This was the most successful year we have experienced," said Ken Donaghue, event organizer. "The success is not only measured in the number of bikes that participated, but the amount of volunteers we had, and the families that lived on the bike route who raised the American flag as bikers passed."

Bailey stressed that the 2011 Ride for the Troops was a collaborative effort, thanking sponsors such as Marketplace Foods, Pepsi, and the National Guard. She also thanked media sponsors, including Paul Bunyan Broadcasting, Paul Bunyan Communications, RP Broadcasting and the Bemidji Pioneer

"They are a great bunch of people to work with and we could not be successful without them," she said of sponsors.

This year's event featured new activities for children such as a football toss, basketball, and a climbing rock wall.