By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
The weekend before the 4th of July, the Sons of the American Legion hosted a bike rally and fundraiser at Cherry Lake for the Hopes and Dreams Foundation, located in a facility off the Quitman, Ga. Highway. Similar to the Wounded Warrior Program, the Hopes and Dreams Foundation serves as a rehabilitation center for wounded military veterans and their families, helping them pick up the pieces and reconnect with their loved ones as they recover.
The bike rally was sponsored by several other bike clubs, many of them military bike clubs out of Moody AFB, near Valdosta, and included the Rescue Riders, the Outsiders, the Green Knights, combat veterans and military veterans. Some folks came as far away as Tifton, Ga. to participate.
The Outsiders are no strangers to fundraising, according to Mike Maitlen, of the Sons of the American Legion of Cherry Lake. At least twice a year, they do fundraising for the cancer society in Valdosta, as well as other benefits for individuals with cancer, in addition to raising money for veterans.
That was why they got the military bike clubs involved, said Maitlen. “We always try to do what we can for the community,” he added.
The fundraiser included selling dinners for $7 a plate, an auction with donated items, including merchandise from Harley Davidson, a 50/50 raffle and a “poker run,” with members of the bike clubs riding around to different locations and pulling a card at each of five stops, beginning and ending at the American Legion Hall. The cost was $10 a hand, or $20 for three hands. Most of the folks participating bought three hands. The Sons of the American Legion also donated $500.
All of the money raised goes to the Hopes and Dreams Foundation. The facility, with a local board of directors and an all-volunteer staff, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, using equine (horse-assisted) therapy to help veterans, wounded warriors, military personnel and their families suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), offering vets and their families not only horseback riding, but also canoeing, kayaking, fishing, camping, the camaraderie of others and accommodations for those staying overnight.
The Sons of the American Legion have also been busy at the Hopes and Dreams facility, doing much of the renovation work needed and delivering donated item such as beds and other furniture, curtains and TVs for rooms.
“Everything is done by donation,” said Maitlen. “That’s why we do what we can for them.”