Tucked up in northern Wisconsin amongst 94 wooded acres along the shores of Big Carr Lake, Camp American Legion has been providing a beautiful setting for veterans, servicemembers and their families to rest, recuperate and bond since 1925.
And since 2010, Wisconsin’s Legion Riders have helped with that message, staging the annual Fall Ride to Camp that has raised more than $34,000 for various projects at the camp. The most recent ride took place Sept. 14 and resulted in more than $12,000 being donated toward the construction of a new chapel for the camp. The current chapel was donated 33 years ago.
The ride was the brainchild of Ken "Rhino" Rynes, a Legion Rider currently serving as Wisconsin’s department commander. Rynes also has a special attachment to Camp American Legion, having served as the camp’s committee chairman.
"It started when we really needed to replace a World War II generator here at the camp, and it was going to cost $50,000-$80,000 to replace," Rynes said. "I’ve been on all eight Legacy Runs, so I know what Legion Riders can get done when they take on a task. So we staged a ride, and it’s gotten bigger every year."
Rynes said it’s easy to get participants for the ride – and even easier to get them to participate again and again. "This place sells itself," he said. "Once you get someone to come here, they immediately believe in the cause and become dedicated to it. (Camp director) Kevin Moshea calls it a chance to create new disciples. When you come here for the first time, you become a disciple."
The camp is open to veterans and servicemembers – and their families – who have a physical or psychological medical condition, any and all types of service and non-service related illnesses, injuries or disabilities. Once at the camp, they can fish, boat, swim, craft, hike, play games and engage in other activities.
Moshea said the Riders know exactly what they’re raising funds for each year. "The money they raise always goes into a designated fund, and each year they’ve raised more money," Moshea said. "The money definitely helps. The Riders have made this a bigger success every year."
Dozens of Wisconsin Legion Riders took part in the ride and were treated to a lunch at the camp consisting of roasted pork, corn on the cob, potatoes, baked beans, soup, salad, rolls and various desserts. But the lunch was just a perk for the participants. The real reason to participate was the mission.
"We’re just helping our fellow buddies - just like we did when we served," said Scott Schumell, a Legion Rider from Post 44 in Wabeno, and a current Army Reservist.
"I think that’s why we all ride," added Chuck Bergner, ALR District 9’s chaplain.
Following lunch, checks and cash were presented from the thousands of dollars raised by Legion family members from various Wisconsin posts, as well as donations from non-Legion family members; hundreds more came from auctioning off a wooden eagle carved by a Wisconsin resident.
"There is no place else in the nation that does what we’re doing (at Camp American Legion)," Rynes told the Riders during lunch. "That’s why so many of you are here today."