For years, Archie Hay American Legion Riders Chapter 24 in Rock Springs, Wyo., has conducted an annual charity poker run charity event to assist veterans in the area, most recently in PTSD treatment and suicide-prevention efforts. But members of Chapter 24 started to notice something about the ride’s participants.
“We were talking about getting everything set up for the (2021) event, and we started talking about doing something for the families,” Chapter 24 Director Jim Sheesley said. “You always have family members where one goes on the poker run, and the other one is at home with the kids.”
Sheesley said fellow Legion Rider Jim Hemphill and Sheesley’s wife, Lisa, first came up with the idea of adding a family component to the charity ride. That morphed into the chapter’s Family Fun Kids Run, which took place June 12 in conjunction with the poker run.
Sheesley said Hemphill and fellow Legion Riders Ken and Kathy Barden, and Donna Williams took the idea for the kids run from inception to reality, developing a plan and collecting donations for the event.
Children were invited to meet at Post 24 that morning and then head out with questionnaires in hand to five different memorials located in the area. A veteran was stationed at each memorial to answer the questions for the children. The stops included visits to an F-101B aircraft and M60 tank at Veterans Park, as well the Korean Vietnam Memorial Monument and a doughboy statue in Bunning Park.
At the stops, the children were taught about area residents who served in the military, other military history, details about the tank and airplane, and stories of the sacrifice of those who lost their lives in service to the nation.
Once the children visited all five sites, they returned with their completed questionnaires and were treated to hotdogs, chips and drinks. The children also received stars removed from retired U.S. flags, as well as prizes for their efforts.
“Walmart donated squirt guns, so every kid had a squirt gun,” Sheesley said. “We had bicycles donated, and tons and tons of toys donated that were given away to the kids. Every kid walked away with several toys.”
Close to 20 children participated in the event. “Everybody enjoyed it,” Sheesley said. “We got a good response from the community. They thought it was a great idea. One of the parents called my wife … and said that she had a blast with her kids. But not only did she have fun, she learned so much about the military that she didn’t know before. So it was great for the children, but also for the parents who don’t know what our history with our military is.”
Sheesley said he hopes the Family Fun Kids Run will continue next year and beyond. “It was a good way to get families introduced to the riding group on a positive level, showing that we are about family,” he said. “The American Legion is about family, and people who ride motorcycles, they are about family also.”