Being a veteran of nine American Legion Legacy Runs – including eight on the advance team – has allowed Virginia Legionnaire Sharon Sculthorpe the opportunity to make a lot of friends during the annual cross-country ride to raise money for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund.
But to Sculthorpe, a member of American Legion Post 325 in Danville, the fellow American Legion Riders she motioned to in the parking lot of Pig Trail Harley-Davidson she’s met are more than friends.
“This is family,” she said. “Some of these people, you hear from them off and on throughout the year, and some of them this is the only time. And when you see them it’s like you haven’t been apart. That’s special. I don’t think you get that a lot of places. We’re all just happy to be back together doing what we like to do: raising money for the Legacy Fund.”
The cancellation of the 2020 Legacy Run because of the coronavirus pandemic “broke my heart. It broke all of our hearts,” Sculthorpe said. “We wanted to go so badly. I understand the concerns and the nationwide crisis, and we all respect that. We had to live with it. But it was terribly difficult.”
A total of 199 motorcycles and 36 passengers will depart Rogers, Ark., at 8 a.m. Aug. 22 to kick off the Legacy Run. Being back on the ride “means everything,” Sculthorpe said. “It means everything to get back out here and get going again, and to let people know that we’re still here. We still care. We still want to ride. And we still want to remember (the) fallen, that they’re not forgotten. We’re going to work our butts off to help their kids go to school. It means everything to us. That’s why we come back here every year.”
A ‘Staggering’ Number of Donations. A total of $153,550 was donated to The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund during the opening ceremony, including $65,000 from the Department of Maryland’s Gold Star Legacy Run and $43,000 from the Virginia Legacy Scholarship Run. Another $10,000 came from Kenneth N. Dowden Wayne Post 64 in Indianapolis, while American Legion Post 211 in Avon Lake presented $7,925, including $3,600 from its own Legacy Run. With approximately $415,000 donated prior to the start of the ride, this year’s total already sits at over a half a million dollars.
American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford will ride part of the Legacy Run as a passenger on a trike, and said he still gets amazed by the efforts of the Riders in raising money for the Legacy Fund.
“It is staggering,” he said. “It’s exciting. It emphasizes who we are and what we do, and our commitment to our children and youth, and the children of those fallen soldiers.”
Oxford was able to attend both American Legion Boys Nation and the American Legion World Series before coming to Rogers. “I think we’re seeing a revitalization and excitement and enthusiasm,” he said. “These folks are excited to get out and see their friends … from across the country. It’s just a wonderful opportunity for me to be here, and I’m excited to take part.”
Welcome from the Home State. The Department of Arkansas and American Legion Post 100 in Rogers were well represented at the opening ceremony. Department Commander Ken Caldwell said seeing his own Legion Riders and those from across the nation “does my heart a whole lot of good. I’m just glad you all are here. I feel that we are one Legion Family, coast to coast. And it does my heart good to see this.”
Members of Post 100’s American Legion Family donated $2,500, along with another $1,201 through a quilt raffle. A 50-50 drawing resulted in another $150 from the post, while the Detachment of Arkansas donated $500.
The Legacy Run also got a warm welcome from Pig Trail Harley-Davidson. General Manager Kyle Johnson told the Riders that the reason the United States is the greatest country in the world is “because of people like you that were willing to serve and put your life on the line. We’re honored to have you here. We hope you raise a lot of money because we know it goes to a good (cause).”
The Rules of the Road. National American Legion Advisory Committee Chairman Mark Clark, the ride’s chief road captain, briefed the contingent on what is expected of them over the course of the next five days and approximately 1,400 miles. Among his advice:
· “Be respectful to those around you during the Run. There’s a lot of … first-time Legacy Run folks, and they don’t know all of these great traditions and little intricacies and the things we do as a group. They may not understand or feel like they’re part of it. I want you to put your arms around those folks to make them feel welcome.”
· “Remember that we are guests in the communities we’re riding through. Let’s be respectful of the folks that are taking the time to come out and honor us by coming out and supporting this ride. Let’s be as respectful to them as they are going to be of us.”
· “Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. We’re going to be riding in hot temperatures and high altitudes. Drink that water.”
· “For our new riders … we’re in no hurry. You may have gone on these rides where you feel somewhere there’s somebody with a checkered flag waiting to wave that same. That is not us.”
· “We’ve done the best we can to plan the best route we can, but we live in a dynamic environment where things can change. We may have to move things around. So I ask you to be flexible and patient.”
With his voice breaking with emotion, Clark told his fellow American Legion Riders what leading the Legacy Run means to him.
“I am honored to be here as the chief road captain,” he said. “I take this job very seriously because I love the Riders and I love what they stand for. I love what we do for The American Legion, and I love what the Legion stands for. For over 102 years we’ve been a dynamic force for good in our communities, states and nation. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be here with you, how honored I am to lead this ride and how much I look forward to spending the next five days with you making memories that will last a lifetime.”
Follow the 2021 Legacy Run on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #LegacyRun2021.