Ride in recognition of vetsThe PIGs are on the move. On June 5, the Twin Ports motorcycle riding group gears up to help area veterans during their inaugural Ride for the Vets.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
The PIGs are on the move. On June 5, the Twin Ports motorcycle riding group gears up to help area veterans during their inaugural Ride for the Vets.
“These rough, gruff looking guys have the biggest hearts in the world,” said Carrie Kappes, one of the event organizers.
The bikers, many of them veterans, come from all walks of life – add a lawyer and a millionaire, members joked, and the group would be set. The leather-clad crew, bound by the joy of riding the open road, is always looking for ways to give back.
“Doing extraordinary things for extraordinary people,” is their motto, said PIGs member Dennis Holman.
The group has adopted members like Chris Smith of Superior, a young man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. PIGs members roared into his life last summer to present Smith with an official PIGs vest and gear. They stopped by at Christmas with more gifts, packing Smith’s home. They also support area families in need. Last weekend, for example, the bikers rode up to the Camille Holden benefit with a $100 check.
Now, they’re making tracks for veterans. Securing door prizes and sponsors for the event has been easy.
“This was a really simple pitch, because you really get to see how patriotic this part of the country is and how much they appreciate what our vets have been doing for us,” Holman said.
In return, said PIGs member Bob Browne, the motorcycle group supports the businesses that have lent a hand.
Sign up for “Ride for the Vets” begins at 10:30 a.m. June 5 in the parking lot of Roper’s Saloon, the habitual watering hole for the PIGs. For a $10 fee, everyone is invited to join the run – other motorcyclists, scooters and even cars.
“Bring your muscle cars out,” said Perry Raivala, a member of the PIGs, and follow along behind the bikers. The motorcycle run begins at noon with stops at Rapids Riverside, Kro Bar, Bridges, Road House, Checker Board and Grumpy’s. The riders will return to Roper’s for food, door prizes and a raffle at 6 p.m. with live music beginning at 9 p.m. All proceeds go to veterans causes, including Project New Hope, a family military retreat in Grantsburg, Wis., that provides veterans and their families with the skills to manage their lives after wartime service.
The event is also a chance to raise awareness of the Twin Ports Outpatient Veterans Clinic in Superior. Now in its 21st year of operation, the clinic served 5,672 patients in 2009, providing 32,287 total visits. Those numbers have been slowly rising every year, according to Ralph Heussner, public affairs officer for the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, which oversees the Twin Ports clinic.
“About 30 percent of all our enrolled patients are being seen in community based outpatient clinics,” Heussner said, the largest of which is the Twin Ports clinic.
But it could be serving more.
“We still need to raise awareness a clinic is there and you need to get enrolled,” Heussner said.
Jim Swanson, who is helping organize the ride, said only one-quarter of eligible veterans in the area are utilizing the clinic. So a booth with information about the clinic is planned at Roper’s the day of the event. Limited edition T-shirts with the ride logo and a list of sponsors on the back will be available for purchase June 5.
Swanson’s uncle, Vietnam veteran Paul Stariha, launched a two-year fundraising campaign to purchase a big screen TV and satellite dish at the clinic with the help of Kappes and his nephew. Swanson suggested a larger fundraiser – a motorcycle poker ride. But they needed a bigger group to pull it off.
Enter the PIGs.
“We jumped at the chance,” Raivala said. “We want to raise money for awareness or anything they need to get out there.”
The bikers have poured their efforts into the event, netting 48 sponsors and a host of door prizes. They are still in search of funds and prizes, for this event and their upcoming rides to benefit the Courage Center of Duluth — which provides sports activities for people with physical disabilities — and the Corbin Lee Fritze family of Superior.
The PIGs is a non-profit organization, Raivala said, and they accept donations online through www.pigsgive.com. Anyone interested in supporting the group’s “extraordinary things for extraordinary people” can also drop a check for the PIGs off at Superior Choice Credit Union or Roper’s.
For more information on Project New Hope visit www.projectnewhope.net.