In the final year of raising money for The American Legion Legacy Scholarship Fund, the Legacy Run made it to its final destination on a record-breaking pace.
With a donation of $121,000 delivered by the Department of Virginia during the Thursday conclusion at Hendrick Motorsports campus in Concord, N.C., the 2023 Legacy Run donation total stands at $667,340.71 – more than $60,000 ahead of last year.
If the donations on The American Legion National Convention floor on Aug. 29 match last year’s total ($717,000), this year’s ride will surpass the record of $1.32 million set a year ago.
“We’re going to do well this year,” Legacy Run Chief Road Captain and National Riders Chairman Mark Clark said. “We set a goal of $1.5 million. It’s going to be interesting if we get there. If we don’t, that’s fine, because every dollar matters. Every single penny we collect is an indication of someone’s heart.”
Clark praised the Riders for their continued dedication to their mission. “I consider each and every one of you a brother and a sister,” he said. “I am proud of you, and I am proud to be one of you. All of you … you know how much of a sacrifice this is. You’re the ones fulfilling the promise The American Legion has made to these children and these families.”
Virginia’s big donation came on the heels of another successful state Legacy Run. In six years, the department’s state ride has generated more than $341,000. “I think the buy-in is really what’s happened,” Virginia Legacy Run coordination Randy Gunn said. “It’s been six years, and people start believing. And they start caring.”
American Legion National Commander Vincent Troiola rejoined the ride Thursday morning after spending the first couple of days with it. He was on hand to greet the ride Thursday and offered high praise for its participants.
“They’re out there with all the passion in the world, trying to raise money for their cause,” Troiola said. “It’s really amazing. Riding in this heat doesn’t seem to bother them. You hear so many of them say it’s about the cause. It’s really inspiring. It makes me proud to be a member of the American Legion Family.”
Hendrick Motorsports, which holds the records for most NASCAR race wins and series championships, lined up food trucks for the Riders, while also providing pit crew demonstrations and tours of the campus.
Hendricks Motorsports President and COO Marshall Carlson, who was elected governor of North Carolina Boys State at age 17, said his organization was proud to host the ride’s conclusion. “I want to start with a sincere thank-you for your sacrifice and service,” he said. “We really don’t get to say that often enough or strongly enough. So, I don’t want to miss this opportunity. Thank you from all of us here.”
Returning the Favor. In 2020, then-National Commander James “Bill” Oxford was supposed to participate in the Legacy Run. COVID-19 put a stop to that, but a year later, he was able to make the trip with the ride from Arkansas to Phoenix.
Oxford admits he remembers quite a bit about the heat during the ride. But he also remembered something else, which is why he wanted his post, Dysart-Kendall Post 29 in Lenoir, N.C., to roll out the red carpet when the ride came through town for a lunch stop.
“The posts that we stopped at when I was on the Run, the welcome and the reception, the way they made us feel, we wanted to copy that and make sure that everybody that came in was welcomed,” Oxford said. “We appreciate them being here, and we appreciate them making Lenoir a part of the Legacy Run. It was just an honor and a privilege for us to do this.”
Oxford said he appreciates the dedication the Riders show in taking part in the Legacy Run. “You’ve got bikes from all over the nation,” he said. “People willing to come in and join the ride for the Legacy (Fund). And I think that’s behind the motivation. People like to ride, but there’s a reason to ride and a force behind the ride.”
A busy morning in Tennessee. The ride left Bristol Motor Speedway Thursday morning at 7 a.m. and headed to Johnson City via the famed Snake 421, a stretch of road with hundreds of tight curves amid beautiful, wooded scenery. Once through, after a stop in Mountain City at the US 421 Country Store, the group moved to Johnson City for a wreath-laying ceremony at the Johnson County Memorial Wall.
Clark joined Troiola, Department of Tennessee Commander Lanny Culver, Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter and Johnson City Mayor Ted Fowler in the ceremony, which was broadcast on local radio.
“Why this ceremony is important to us is as veterans and veteran families, we know that the folks that have signed up to defend our nation over generations have given the last full measure of devotion,” Clark said before the ceremony. “The good people erect these monuments because the names (on them) matter. I want you to know today that we’re going to do the very best to honor them.”
On hand to greet the ride was Department of Tennessee American Legion Riders State Director Brian Pike, a member of American Legion Post 42 and Sons of The American Legion Squadron 42 in Fayetteville.
Pike said having the ride go through Tennessee “is a great honor, keeping the brothers and sisters together for the main cause of raising money for the future generations. It’s great to have them come through.”
Tennessee had its first state Legacy Run in 2022 and this year almost doubled the previous year’s output, bringing in more than $40,000. “It was just promoting, trying to get more participation. The first year we started out with 26 bikes. The second year we started out with 52. And as the new department, my goal is to … at least make $65,000.”