From 2021 to 2022, the American Legion Riders at Chapter 3 in Macon, Ga., staged four big rides – two a year – to assist a police survivors organization, a disabled veteran in need and veterans wanting to take part in Middle Georgia Honor Flight.
The four rides raised a combined $115,000 for the respective causes. But more than that, it let those in the Macon community know that the Riders are there to assist.
“Before the pandemic we started (increasing fundraising efforts),” said Chapter 3 Director David Gales, a member of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 3. “And right in the middle of what we were doing the pandemic hit. And everything went kaput.
“But we kept going. We want to get the people to know that we’re there for them, trying to help them. A lot of people don’t know you can join The American Legion at any time.”
The past two years, motorcyclists from all over the state have come to Macon to take part in Chapter 3’s ride to benefits Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), a nonprofit that provides resources to assist the families and co-workers of police officers killed in the line of duty. The 2021 ride resulted in a $25,000 donation to C.O.P.S., while last year’s saw that number grow to $45,000.
Also in 2021, members of Chapter 3 learned that a local disabled veteran who trains service dogs for fellow veterans needed major repairs to the van he used to drive for work. The Riders again banded together, this time staging a benefit ride that netted $15,000 to handle the cost of all of the van’s repairs.
And last fall, the chapter’s benefit for the Middle Georgia Honor Flight – which flies veterans from Georgia to Washington, D.C., to tour the various memorials there – resulted in back-to-back $15,000 donations to the local Honor Flight.
“The Honor Flight people said they usually get donations of $1,000, at the most $4,000 or $5,000,” Gales said. “And then we give them a check for $15,000. There’s astonishment in their face when they get the check. And $15,000 fills that plane with veterans, and then we turn around and give them another $15,000 check right after that, it’s just something they don’t realize is going to happen. The look and expression on their face is everything.
"And when you see these (veterans) come back from these Honor Flights at the airport – they don’t expect a big crowd – but when they get off the plane and see everybody cheering and shaking their hands and welcoming them back, that’s worth everything.”
Gales said the reasons Chapter 3 has been able to raise the amount of money it has is from “a lot of work. And sponsors. We sell tickets for door prizes and we have auctions. But you can’t just sit back. You still need to ask (for support) again.”
Gales credits immediate past ALR 3 Director Doug McCallum with helping recharge the chapter. “(McCallum) is the type you want to help. You want to be in with him,” he said. He and Chester Stewart – he’s a member of the Riders – those two are basically the face of the rides we’ve put on.”
Besides its fundraising efforts, Chapter 3 also performs flag retirement ceremonies, sponsors a clean-up and landscaping of the entire Post 3 property, and sponsored the cleaning and potential overhaul of the monumental field gun sitting outside Post 3.
“We have a group of 20 American Legion Riders that has gone over and above to raise money for the community,” Gales said. “Their dedication to this post and veterans knows no bounds.”