Legion Riders raising awareness about PTSD with summer event

Legion Riders raising awareness about PTSD with summer event

Department of Michigan Legionnaire Scott Igo has only been the director of American Legion Riders Chapter 3 in Sault Ste Marie for a few weeks. But he’s been carrying around an idea for longer than that, one that will become a reality this summer.

The first annual “Hell to Paradise PTSD Awareness Ride” will take place July 26-28 and will serve as a mechanism to raise awareness about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Originally slated to start in the unincorporated community of Hell, Mich., and head to Paradise before returning to Sault Ste Marie, the ride has been expanded to a second route from Ironwood to Paradise because of so many participants already registered. Both routes will meet up and then ride in together to Post 3 on July 28.

“I’ve always tried to figure out a way to help. That’s one of my biggest things: trying to help other people,” said Igo, who has non-combat PTSD. “And when I got involved with the Legion Riders, that was a way to help people. And I drive a truck across the country, so I have a lot of time to think.

“‘Hell to Paradise’ just kept popping in my head. And I kept thinking to myself, ‘When you have PTSD, you live in hell every day. You’re waking up in hell every day to fight those demons. And we all want to get to that happy place, the safe place. The ‘paradise.’” So, it was a natural fit. ‘Hell to Paradise’ was an awesome name for a ride.”

Igo said he initially “sat on” the idea of the ride because he didn’t have many connections with the Rider community outside of Chapter 3. But as he began to share his idea with Riders throughout Michigan, Igo said they told him, ‘Dude, you just need to go with it. This is how you do it. This is who you contact.’

“So, I started making some contacts. And it was getting a whole admin team together, and we’ve been working with the state … just trying to get it to where we could do it. We created our Facebook page, and that started blowing up. And we have our website now.”

The result has been more than 200 registrants so far. In addition to motorcyclists from Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, Igo said he’s also had some from as far away as Arizona and Florida. “I’ve got a Navy buddy I haven’t seen since ’98, and he’s coming over from Pennsylvania just to ride this ride because he knows what it means,” Igo said. “It blew up.”

Funds raised from the ride will go to a service dog provider, and a nonprofit that introduces veterans in hunting and also organizes motorcycle rides for veterans and others. And as a part of the ride, Igo said he’s reached out to the American Legion Department of Michigan’s Wilwin Lodge at Cygnet Cove, an outdoor retreat that provides relaxation for disabled combat veterans and military families, and offers recreational activities adding in the healing process for PTSD and traumatic brain injury patients. Those who participate in the ride are urged to either provide supplies that Wilwin Lodge staff has requested for the day-to-day operations of the lodge, or gift cards to purchase those items.

“I’m humbled just to think that I had an idea, and now we’re raising all this money and all this awareness to help these guys out that can’t find a way to get help,” Igo said. “And it keeps getting bigger and bigger. I’m nervously excited about it.”

For more information about the “Hell to Paradise PTSD Awareness Ride”, visit its Facebook page.