'There are no miles between Rider friends'

When one of their own contracted T-cell lymphoma, the American Legion Riders from Chapter 514 in Willard, Ohio, decided to stage a fundraiser to help him pay for his medical expenses. But not even one of the event’s organizers expected the results the chapter got – or presences of Legion Riders from other states.

But that is the kind of person that Lofty Crofts is, said Post 514 Legion Rider Brian Mull, who helped organize the event and also joins fellow Legion Rider Joe Smith in giving Crofts rides to and from the St. James Cancer Center in Columbus, Ohio, for treatments.

“Lofty is a really easygoing person, and it seems like when he meets somebody they want to stay in contact with him,” Mull said of Crofts, who is in remission but still facing chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant. “We usually travel together, and we’ve met so many people through the Legion Riders. It’s just phenomenal.”

The Riders staged a fundraiser that included a raffle, auction and 50-50 drawing. By the time the event had ended and the money was counted, the effort had raised more than $20,000.

“That really wasn’t our goal, but it just sort of turned into that,” Mull said. “It was just a brotherhood. And we had a lot of donations from the community and from surrounding communities. We were flabbergasted when we started counting the money.”

Mull said when Crofts found out what the fundraiser had taken in, “he was just amazed. You really can’t put it into words. He told me $5,000-$10,000 would help immensely. And we really went over that.”

In addition to several Ohio ALR Chapters, Mull said Legion Riders from Michigan who’d met Crofts at various ALR regional events also came to the fundraiser, as did a pair of Massachusetts Legion Riders who rode more than 680 miles each way to hand deliver a check to Crofts.

Karen Sherlock, treasurer of American Legion Riders Chapter 33 in Uxbridge, Mass., said she and her husband Rich – also a Legion Rider -- met Crofts and other Chapter 514 Legion Riders at Rolling Thunder in Washington, D.C., and became friends.

Rich found out about Crofts’ situation, and at the chapter’s next meeting Karen asked for a donation for the fundraiser. The Riders came up with $200, which Karen was planning on mailing. But then Rich found out he was going to be able to take off work.

“He asked me ‘do you want to take a road trip?’ Needless to say, we took a road trip,” Karen said. “We left Friday morning and rode to Erie, Pa. From Erie we made our way to Willard and stayed the night. And Sunday morning we road-tripped all the way back to Massachusetts.”

Karen said being able to present Crofts with the check “was amazing.” And as to answering why drive that far to deliver a check, Karen said “Why not? I’ve lost a lot of family members and very close friends (to cancer). Being a Legion Rider and having the opportunity to do something like this for a fellow Legion Rider, it just feels like what the Legion Riders do. There are no miles between Rider friends.”