Ohio Legion Riders supports critical veterans program
For more than 20 years, Chapter 25 of the American Legion Riders in Washington Court House, Ohio, has held a Polar Bear Run in January to raise funds and collect canned goods and other items to help veterans. .
For the past few years, the chapter has used the ride to raise money for the Military Veterans Resource Center in nearby Chillicothe. The center provides services to all U.S. Army veterans, with the goal of “helping veterans regain their self-reliance and independence.” Each veteran who uses the center’s services is assigned a veteran services specialist or coach to assist them.
This year, Chapter 25 wanted to do something a little different, and the timing couldn’t have been better. The icy roads forced the cancellation of the actual Polar Bear Run, so instead, Chapter 25 – with the support and help of the rest of the Post 25 American Legion family – held a “22 a Day Benefit” to raise awareness of veteran suicides.
“We didn’t want it to be the same year after year,” said Tracy Thomas, ALR Chapter 25 Director, a member of Auxiliary Unit 25. “We wanted to change things up a bit and bring the Pay attention not only to the polar bear race, but the Legion itself as a whole…and the (suicide awareness) benefit.
In a typical year, Thomas said the Polar Bear Run will attract both American Legion riders and other area motorcyclists who ignore the cold temperatures of the Midwest to participate.
“It can be cold at times, but we do it anyway, provided the weather isn’t dangerous,” Thomas said. “We give out trophies generally for the youngest rider, the oldest and the one who rides the farthest. And, of course, we welcome anyone who doesn’t ride.
Unable to roll this year, Post 25 instead held an event that included a breakfast, DJ, raffle and other fundraisers. The post accepted both monetary donations totaling over $4,000 and non-perishable items, which were provided to the Military Veterans Resource Center.
“They don’t support any specific area. They support Ohio in general,” Thomas said of the center. “They will pick up the donated items anywhere and they will deliver to veterans all over Ohio. They have shown us that they have succeeded in what they do and that they get good results from it.
That’s why Chapter 25 provides support to the center, which Thomas says can have an impact on reducing veteran suicides. “(Receiving help from the center) can reduce their stress level if they receive help in some way,” she said. “It can be one less stressor they have to deal with and allow them to think more clearly and know there is help out there.”
Thomas said she had been a member of Chapter 25 for about three years and was motivated to take on a leadership role because of her background.
“My dad and mom both did (motorcycles) when I was young, and I ride myself,” she said. “My brother, my father and my grandparents were all in the military. To me, it was a way for me to give back since I didn’t serve. He supports veterans.
“On top of that, I’m also a nurse, so I deal with a lot of veterans in my job. It helps me better understand veterans and the daily challenges they face.