The Swanton American Legion Riders will take to the road Saturday to make life easier for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. And they’re inviting the public to join the cause.
The riders from Murbach-Siefert Post 479 will make their Third Annual Battle Buddy Foundation Poker Run on Aug. 26 to raise money to fund therapy dog training. They’re anticipating over 200 bikers for the event, and hope to beat last year’s proceeds of $15,000.
The nationwide Battle Buddy Foundation provides the service dogs free to veterans suffering from PTSD.
“This is our pinnacle. It’s quite an event,” said Ron Wilson, the Swanton post’s second vice commander and Legion Riders director.
The riders, who attended last year from as far as North Carolina, will begin to register Saturday at 10 a.m., then leave the Murbach- Siefert post at 200 Hallett Ave. at 11:30 a.m. They will be escorted to the village limits by the Swanton Fire Department.
The poker run will include visits to the Infield Club, Wauseon VFW Post 7424, and the Swanton Sports Center before returning to the American Legion about 4 p.m. That’s when the post’s doors will open for an evening of dinner, Chinese and traditional auctions, and musical entertainment from Liberation Music.
Auction items have been donated by over 100 businesses in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. “The support they give us is unbelievable. They like to be part of it because it’s a great cause,” Wilson said.
The cost to join the Battle Buddy Foundation Poker Run is $15 per motorcycle rider and $10 per passenger. Members of the public are invited to participate. Cash prizes will go the riders with the best and the worst poker hand. The rider who biked the farthest distance to attend will be awarded a commemmorative plaque.
All of the event’s proceeds will go to the Battle Buddy Foundation, with branches in West Chester, Ohio, and Valencia, Calif. The funds are used to train the service dogs given to veterans suffering from PTSD.
The Swanton American Legion Riders began with 13 members comprised of veterans, Legion Auxiliary members, and members of the post’s Sons of the American Legion. Currently, the group has about 50 riders and 40 supporters.
“Without our supporters, our Battle Buddy Poker Run would not be the success that it is,” Wilson said.
The Legion Riders were approached by Legion employee Debbie Miniaci about creating a poker run for the Battle Buddy Foundation just a few months after the motorcycle group was formed. The inaugural event attracted 130 riders, and the second 186 riders.
Last year’s proceeds assisted with the training for three dogs. The foundation provides financial support for the dogs it trains over their lifetime, an estimated $25,000. It covers their training, food, and medical expenses.
“It’s not about how much money we raise. We never make it about the money. We make it about the reason we raise the money,” Wilson said.
The founder of the Battle Buddy Foundation, Kenny Bass, suffered from PTSD after service in the U.S. Marine Corps. He created the organization to spotlight the disorder and to provide service dogs free to veterans who would benefit from them.
“The foundation gets to see the changes in these lives,” Wilson said.
Bass will attend the Swanton poker run with his dog, Atlas, who was named Service Dog of the Year and is a contender for Hero Dog of the Year.
Wilson said the event has been advertised through social media. He has heard that a group of riders from Arizona plan to attend.
“We’re expecting good things this year,” he said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.