In 2018, Virginia Legionnaire Randy Gunn got the idea to organize and run a ride similar to the Legacy Run in his own state. Hoping to raise $5,000, the ride instead provided $25,000 to The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.
Gunn organized a similar ride this year, but the total raised jumped up to $30,000, which he presented to American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad during the Aug. 21 Legacy Run lunch stop in Jonesville, Va.
Gunn, who is a member of American Legion Post 284 in Colonial Heights and serves as Virginia’s Eastern Region assistant ALR director, rode to Jonesville with other Virginia Legion Riders from throughout the state to present the donation.
“It’s rewarding, and you have the ability to say a million different words,” said Gunn of presenting the check for $30,000. “I’ve had people ask me ‘do you have a speech ready?’ I’m like ‘no, because everybody knows what it takes to raise money.’”
In-state Legacy Runs staged by American Legion departments have helped the national ride exceed $1 million raised each of the past five years. So far on the 2019 Run, the Department of Delaware has delivered more than $55,000 from its Gold Star Legacy Run, while another $20,750 came from the Texas Lone Star Legacy Run. Hundreds of thousands more are expected to be presented Aug. 27 on The American Legion National Convention floor in Indianapolis.
In 2018, Gunn and his girlfriend rode from Colonial Heights to Hutchinson, Kan., to present the $25,000 raised on its in-state ride prior to the start of the Legacy Run. This year and last are the only two Legacy Runs he’s missed. He’s already set a goal of raising $40,000 next year, thanks in part to what he calls a great road captain in fellow Legion Rider Skip Klaas.
“What I wanted to do was something a little more,” Gunn said. “We’ve been able to do that.”
During the same lunch stop – which was hosted by American Legion Post 185 in the Jonesville, Va., Cumberland Bowl Park – the Riders were treated to either pulled pork or tacos, along with a dessert table the size of Rhode Island. A wreath-laying ceremony took place at the park’s "Veterans Memorial Wall,” where soldiers’ names appear on the bricks of the wall honoring their service in the U.S. armed forces.
Post 185 Commander Charlie Bunch made it a point to donate the money the Riders paid for the meal – more than $1,600 back to the Legacy Fund. The New Mexico American Legion Riders also presented $7,000 during the donations that came in at the stop.
Scenery, camaraderie and a mission. On a day when the ride got an eyeful of scenery through the hills and mountains of Tennessee and Virginia – and the rain held off – Illinois Legion Rider Joe Lampert got a chance to enjoy his surroundings.
“It’s beautiful countryside,” said Lampert, a past post commander of Morton Grove Post 134, a former district and division commander, and the current chairman of the department’s American Legion Riders Committee. “It’s just exhilarating. It really is. Just on the open road, a lot of us bikes and just taking in our beautiful country.”
Lampert has been on four Legacy Runs and continues to participate because of “the camaraderie and what this stands for: doing it for the kids. I think this is one of the greatest events that the Legion puts on. People coming from everywhere that you haven’t talked to or seen for a year, and you group right back up with them. It’s like we were sitting and talking yesterday.”
'They’re riding for a reason.' Thomas Hostetter, a member of Post 145 in nearby Bristol, came to the gas stop at Walmart in Johnson City, Tenn., to both see the ride arrive and donate to its cause. “I just like what they’re doing and I wanted to donate,” said the Vietnam veteran. “Who else is going … to help those kids who lost their dad or their mother in service for our country?”
Seeing his fellow American Legion members take on a mission like the Legacy Fund “is amazing,” Hostetter said. “People get the wrong concepts about motorcyclists. But when you see this group of guys, you’ve got to know they’re not bad guys. They’re riding for a reason, and that’s to raise money to send kids to school.”
The Riders’ mission: ‘jaw-dropping.’ Sons of The American Legion member Scott Johnson joined several other Kentucky Legion Riders at the ride’s gas stop in Middlesboro, Ky., and helped lead the Run’s advance team to the day’s final stop at Wildcat Harley-Davidson in London, Ky.
Getting a chance to meet up and then help escort “was amazing,” said Johnson, a member of SAL Squadron 88 in Corbin, Ky. “Anytime we get an opportunity around here, we love to contribute.”
Johnson said expressing his pride and appreciation for what the Riders do on the Legacy Run is difficult to put into words. “It’s jaw-dropping. Magnificent,” he said. “(Meeting up with the ride) is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To be a part of it is just amazing.”
Wildcat Harley-Davidson provided the Riders with a pulled pork dinner, while nearby Mart Gentry Post 16 provided a shuttle to and from the post from the area hotels where the Riders were staying overnight. London Mayor Troy Rudder read a proclamation honoring the Riders and the Run.
More than $11,000 was donated to the Legacy Run, including $3,500 from the Legion Family at John D. Wibby Post 86 in Overgaard, Ariz., and $3,000 from Carroll County Post 31 in Maryland. The total donated during the day was $52,095, bringing the amount raised on the ride alone to $200,956.