Legion Riders gearing up for Legacy Run

With the 13th annual American Legion Legacy Run less than two months away, American Legion Riders from across the country are in full swing conducting state Legacy Runs to bring in money for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.

The fund provides college assistance for the children of U.S. military personnel killed on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001, as well as children of post-9/11 veterans with a combined VA disability rating of 50 percent or higher. The reason for the fund, says South Carolina Legion Riders Director L.Z. Harrison, is why his department had nearly 100 motorcycles take part in its 2018 state Legacy Run,

“It’s absolutely because of the cause,” Harrison said. “With the increase in the (scholarship eligibility) to 50 percent or more disabled veterans … and the amount of the scholarships that are now being given out, we’ve used that to our advantage in our communications to promote the ride.”

South Carolina has conducted seven state Legacy Runs, raising more than $375,000 in the process. This year’s ride brought in $65,000, which the department will present on the floor of the 2018 National Convention in Minneapolis.

Harrison said being able to donate that amount of money is a source of pride – and the venue in which it is presented brings out the best in Legion Riders from across the country. South Carolina has been in the top six in department donations every year since 2013.

“I think it’s a healthy competition,” Harrison said. “Each department then strives to do more and tries to compete. All of it ends up for the great cause of the Legacy Fund. We pride ourselves in that we’re one of the smaller departments and that we’re always in the top 10 (in donations), and most of the time we’re in the top five.”

Harrison said this year’s state ride also tried to follow National Commander Denise Rohan’s “Family First” slogan. “This year we made it a point to visit American Legion posts, and it really was a smashing success,” he said. “In past events we may have went to restaurants to eat (and) we may have stopped at places that weren’t American Legion posts. In this case we started, we stopped and we ate lunch at American Legion posts. Not every post had a Riders chapter, but they really threw out the welcome mat for us and we had the opportunity to make it about The American Legion Family this year.”

In Missouri, the State Legacy Run involved 74 motorcycles and 113 participants traversing 650 miles in three days. The results: $72,828 raised. "We had outstanding support from all the posts that we stopped at," said Legion Rider Brian Sapp, the ride's coordinator. "We're hopeful we will get additional donations prior to our department convention in July that will put us over our goal of $100,000 for this year."

In Maryland, the Gold Star Legacy Run traveled about 750 miles through northern Maryland to bring in Legacy Fund contributions. In three days, the ride was able to bring in $45,000. That’s up from the $13,500 raised during the department’s first state Legacy Run two years ago. Participation has gone from 40 Riders registered the first year to 97 this year.

Deciding to start an in-state Legacy Run, Past Sons of The American Legion National Commander and ride chairman Joe Gladden said, was “the combination of a couple of things. When I was national commander, the Legacy Scholarship Fund was my national commander’s project. And when I came out of my year as national commander, that was the year the Legacy Run came into Baltimore.

“It was my thought process, ‘Let’s continue to do something.’ We came up with the concept of the Maryland Gold Star Legacy Run. It’s supporting a cause near and dear to heart, and also it’s bringing attention to the Riders and showing the Department of Maryland that the Legion Riders can be an important part of Legion Family … and bring awareness to The American Legion as well.”

Gladden said that the national Legacy Run has created “an association with the Legacy Scholarship Fund and riding motorcycles. Not that it’s the only charity out there that the Riders support, but this was done on a national basis and reached out across the nation.”

The Department of Kansas Legion Riders had their fourth annual Legacy Run earlier this month, raising more than $21,000 with donations continuing to be made to the ride.

“(We) had a great ride, with an average of 45 motorcycles plus support vehicles,” said Kansas Sons of The American Legion Detachment Commander Terry “Hoss” Harris, the lead ride captain for the state Legacy Run. “As we continue to hold this event, the support we are getting from American Legion posts and communities across the state is remarkable.

“We are making great strides in educating the communities about the American Legion Legacy Fund. The ride itself just keeps getting bigger and better each year. Many of our riders call this event a ‘can’t miss.’”

And Alabama Legion Riders State Adjutant Tony Berenotto said his department recently wrapped up a four-day state Legacy Run that brought in more than $10,000. Florida Legion Riders even participated in the event, just as Legion Riders from all over the nation took part in Florida’s Unity Ride, which raises money for the Legacy Fund and this year traveled through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Online registration for the 2018 American Legion Legacy Ride is available now through Aug. 11. All riders and passengers who register online before Aug. 1 will be mailed the registration packet with patches and map book materials before national staff departs. Those who register on or after Aug. 1 will be mailed their registration packets on or after Sept. 1 (while supplies last) as staff returns from convention duties.

The Legacy Run will leave Hutchinson, Kan. – where Post 68 will host kickoff events – on Aug. 19 and arrive in Minneapolis for the 2018 National Convention. The ride will make stops in Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin before finishing Aug. 23 at Anoka Post 102 in Minnesota.

The 2017 Legacy Run raised a record $1,224,653 – the fourth straight year the ride raised more than $1 million.