A change in the standard operating procedure and a shorter distance covered didn't mean a step back for the 2012 Legacy Run Home.
The run – now in its seventh year – raised more than $700,000 for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund. The seven runs so far have raised more than $3 million to provide college scholarships for the children of U.S. servicemembers killed on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
"It shows our commitment, our dedication and our respect to all those great warriors who sacrificed their lives for us, and it shows our commitment to taking care of those they left behind," said outgoing American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong, who took part in the entire trek. "This fund and what it does serve as a memory of, and tribute to, those men and women who sacrificed so much for our country."
Normally, the Legacy Run starts in Indianapolis and finishes up in the national convention city, but because Indianapolis was the host of that event this year, the run was divided into two parts: the National Commander's Ride, which originated in upstate New York, traveled through three states in three days before finishing up in Indianapolis, and The American Legion Riders Expo, which took place in Indianapolis Aug. 24-25.
The ride kicked off at Wheatfield Post 1451 in Sanborn, N.Y. Riders Chapter Director Sam Reeder and fellow Post 1451 Legionnaires spent seven months planning events for ride participants.
"Words can't describe how this feels," Reeder said. "It's really pretty overwhelming seeing how this all came together. It was a complete team effort."
After a photo op at Niagara Falls, the ride made stops at Post 535 in Salamanca, N.Y.; Post 397 in Vermillion, Ohio; Garden City (Mich.) Post 396; Post 157 in Quincy, Mich.; and ended at Speedway Post 500 in Indiana. The stop at Post 396 was especially fitting as it's the birthplace of the Legion Riders and home post of one of the program's two founders – Bill Kaledas.
Kaledas never imagined the idea that he and Chuck "Tramp" Dare had back in '93 would take off as it has. "Not in my wildest dreams," he said. "I'm so very proud of the Riders and all the good that they've done. When I saw them pull into our city, and I saw people standing there greeting them, I had to shed a tear. Everyone leaves something behind. When it comes to that time for me, if this group is what I leave behind, that's a pretty good legacy to leave behind."
Once in Indianapolis, Run participants took part in the two-day American Legion Riders Expo where participants underwent basic and advanced skills training, and took classes in such areas as intersection awareness, group riding, rider reception and alcohol awareness. Participants also took part in a charity ride to raise funds for the nearby Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, as well as a question-and-answer session with The American Legion Riders Ad-Hoc Committee.
They also heard from two Legacy Scholarship recipients: Jennifer Clapp and Taylor Curry, both college graduates. "Family is obviously very important to each and every one of us, and I realize I'm now a part of a much bigger family," Clapp said. "It means so much to me that you thought of me after my father made such a sacrifice."
Curry echoed those sentiments. "Truly, the work that all of you do – you made a difference in my life," he said. "There are always student loans, but because of you, I don't have to pay back as much as I could have."
When the final Legacy Scholarship Fund donations were tallied, the Run had again bettered any previous efforts. Totals to date have surpassed $700,000; on the convention floor, the top donors this year were the departments of South Carolina ($56, 925), Minnesota ($40,550) and Florida ($36,903), as well as the Legion Riders from American Legion Post 593 in Converse, Texas ($25,051).