Legionnaire Rollie Otte rode his Harley-Davidson nearly 800 miles Aug. 16-17 to get to Indianapolis, just so he could ride another 1,200 miles through Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia before ending up in Louisville.
Why? Because Otte - one of 251 motorcyclists who pulled into Highland Post 201 in Louisville on Friday afternoon - believes in the Legacy Run and The American Legion Legacy Scholarship fund; it provides scholarship money for the children of servicemembers who have died on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
"Our children are the ones who are going to be taking care of our country in the future. We need to take care of them," said Otte, a member of Post 85 in Columbus, Neb. "We want to make sure these kids get a college education. These kids deserve to go to college."
The run netted nearly $156,000 in donations heading into Louisville; more than $92,000 followed during a ceremony at Post 201, and donations throughout the week brought the total to nearly $549,000 - well above the goal of $400,000.
The departments of Georgia, Virginia and New York all donated more than $20,000 each. William M. Randolph Post 593 in Converse, Texas, raised more than $32,000.
The Legacy Scholarship fund has accrued more than $3 million - including $1 million from the first three Legacy Runs.
"We have a phrase in the military: 'Look out for your buddy,'" Otte said. "We're looking out for their children."
Past National Commander David K. Rehbein participated in a portion of the ride and was at Post 210 when the riders began to pull into the parking lot.
"The distances these people have ridden just to get here - one of these folks, it will take him three days just to get home," Rehbein said. "Beyond just the money that they raise, the time they spend to participate is amazing."
While on the floor of the 91st National Convention, Rehbein praised the ride's participants. "You saw the donations that came in here," he said. "But on top of that, (the riders) paid their own expenses. And many of them will ride two or three days just to get to the start (of the ride) – and then two to three days to get home. That kind of dedication, I don't know where else you're going to find it."