(Photo by Samantha Smith)

'It's about doing what you can for your community'

The family of 12-year-old Walker Allen, a young man recovering from T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and facing three years of chemotherapy treatments, was expecting a handful of motorcycles to show up at their house in Westville, Ind., on July 15.

They got a lot more than expected.

American Legion Riders from three different chapters teamed up with Guardian Riders of LaPorte County for what was close to a 50-motorcycle procession. Once at the Walker’s home, the Riders and others visited with Walker and his family, providing a much-needed boost to the young man.

“There was a charity ride coming up for Walker, and I had heard that he had been really low,” said Matt Hampton, second vice commander and Riders chapter director for Hanon Gray Post 83 in LaPorte, Ind. “So I just put the word out that we wanted to do something to cheer him up and let him know that the Riders were there for him.”

Hampton put together the ride in three days. Approximately 20 or so Legion Riders from Chapter 83 took part in the ride, which ended up at Walker’s house. The size of the motorcycle contingent was a surprise to the family.

“Walker’s mom told me she thought it would be two or three motorcycles,” Hampton said. “The family was ecstatic (when we arrived). You could see they were in tears. It was very emotional for them.”

Because Walker has to wear a mask over his mouth, Hampton said it was sometimes difficult to understand what he was saying, but “You could see he was smiling from ear to ear.”

The family’s reaction is what motivates Walker and the rest of Chapter 83’s Legion Riders to do what they do. “That’s the reward, seeing how it affected them,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. Part of our mission is to take care of our community.”

During the visit, Hampton presented Walker with a Legion Riders necklace. “I told him that now that he has the necklace, it’s his job to try to be a good leader,” Hampton said.

What Chapter 83 did for the Walker family is in line with what it regularly does for its community. In addition to having a benefit ride scheduled for Aug. 6 for a young boy run over by a tractor, the chapter also donated 750 teddy bears to LaPorte County for children involved in car accidents.

Hampton said every Legion Riders efforts is a Legion family effort. “We’ve got Riders from the Auxiliary, from the Sons (of The American Legion) and from the Legion,” he said. “None of this works unless we all work together.

“It’s all about doing what you can for your community. And we need to work together as a family to do the best we can for our community.”