The Swanton American Legion Riders plan to hit the road Aug. 25 to benefit military veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. And the public can join them for the event.
The 4th Annual Battle Buddy Poker Run will kick off Saturday, Aug. 25, at 11:30 a.m. from Murbach-Siefert American Legion Post #479, 200 Hallett Ave., Swanton, with a police and fire department escort to the village limits. During a leisurely ride, the bikers will make 45-minute stops at VFW Post #7424 in Wauseon, American Legion Post #384 in Whitehouse, and American Legion Post #320 in Maumee, before swinging back to Swanton.
There, the riders will draw five playing cards for a poker hand. Prizes are awarded for the best and worst hands.
Registration begins at the Swanton Legion post at 9:30 a.m. Admission to the ride, which is open to the public, is $15 per rider, $10 per passenger.
The Swanton Legion will open to the public from 4-11 p.m., where, for a $10 admission fee, they can enjoy an evening of food, drink, music, Chinese and 50/50 raffles, and a live auction. Entertainment will be provided by the Forrest Family, a DJ from Liberation Music, and the Springfield High School competitive ROTC Drill Team, which is ranked second in the nation.
All proceeds will benefit the non-profit Battle Buddy Foundation of West Chester Township in Ohio. Founded by Kenny Bass and Chrissy Faulkner, the organization provides service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD, at no cost to the veterans.
“If you’ve ever met someone with a service dog – it’s amazing how these dogs have turned their life around,” said Ron Wilson, who helped coordinate the poker run.
He cited the case of Bass, a Marine combat veteran who was struck by a roadside bomb during his tour in Iraq. Suffering from PTSD afterward, he was issued a service dog named Atlas.
“Things just weren’t going great for him,” Wilson said. But after acquiring Atlas “he was off all his medications and life really turned around for him.” Additionally, his dog was named 2017 Service Dog of the Year.
When the Swanton American Legion Riders formed in 2015 a former bartender at the Legion suggested they affiliate with the Battle Buddy Foundation.
“This is our one major fundraiser that we do,” Wilson said. “This ride has gotten so popular that just last year we had 243 bikes. We probably had 350 people that we took to three stops. This year we’re expecting to exceed that number of bikes.”
So far this year, $14,000 in cash donations have rolled in, including $1,000 each from VFW Post #7424 in Wauseon and the Delta Eagle Riders. Contributions also come from regional businesses and in the form of auction items. Last year, enough items were received to raffle off over 100 baskets.
in 2017, 750 people participated, with a total of $25,000 raised. That’s about the cost to train, feed and provide medical care for one service dog.
“We’re very fortunate to have the kind of support that we do,” Wilson said.
For more information on the Buddy Battle Poker Run, call Ron Wilson at 517-605-8981.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.