Hundreds of bikers will liven up today's usual quiet afternoon in downtown Augusta with a ride to benefit veterans.
The bikers, along with a few antique cars, will depart from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center's Wrightsboro Road location at 2 p.m. and ride to the VA Center on 15th Street for the second annual Memorial Day Ride for Hospitalized Veterans.
"We have bikers from Augusta, Aiken, North Augusta, North Carolina, Atlanta. Most of the bikers are vets or have family members who are," said Larry Dodson, a veteran and the ride coordinator.
He is also hoping Columbia County riders turn out for the event, which will benefit area veterans.
A 30-year quadriplegic, Dodson will lead the way on his specially made motorcycle he operates from its sidecar.
Riders must give one or more personal care items, such as underwear, T-shirts, socks, ball caps and travel size deodorant, shampoo, shaving cream, razors and other toiletries, that are needed by patients at both hospital locations.
Other items needed include playing cards, cross word puzzle books, stamps, envelopes, phone cards, compact discs, portable CD players, books, books on tape, cassette players, handheld games, reading glasses and calendars.
"Some of the spinal cord patients are here from four months to two years, so their families are not always able to be here," said Janice Kennedy, chief of patient advocacy and community resources. "So these items are a big help, especially for the new patients just learning to adjust to their injury - to being paralyzed."
Last year, more than 200 motorcycles and about 25 antique vehicles participated in the ride, said Dodson, who regularly volunteers in the hospital spinal cord injury unit.
He said he's hoping for nearly 300 bikers this year.
Dodson said he had organized rides for Toys for Tots and other organizations.
"I thought, 'why not help my own family,"' he said.
He recruited bikers by taking flyers to motorcycle shops and meeting with bike clubs.
"The ride is so wonderful, so beneficial because prior to it, there had been no one day set aside for getting the items," he said.
Kennedy said the numerous American flags on the bikers' bikes flapping in the breeze as they make their journey will be "a sight to see."
She said Mr. Dodson puts a lot of work into coordinating the ride, which is co-sponsored by the Southeastern Paralyzed Veterans Association and ABATE (American Bikers Active Toward Education), district 8.
"Anyone with a bike or antique car is welcome," Kennedy said. "Or if (people) just want to drop off items or cash, they can do that."
For more information, call (803) 442-3877 or 592-1015.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Memorial Day Ride for Hospitalized Veterans
WHEN: 2 p.m. today
WHERE: The ride departs from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, One Freedom Way off Wrightsboro Road in Augusta, and ends at the VA on 15th Street and Walton Way
COST: A personal care item
PHONE: (803) 442-3877 or 592-1015
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