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A thunderous sound arose when hundreds of bikers rode for the troops in 2010, a circuitous route that took them from Bemidji to the north end of Itasca State Park. They were met by families, an honor guard, flag waving friends and Blue Star Mothers. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Ride for the Troops coming June 5

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News Park Rapids,Minnesota 56470
Park Rapids Enterprise
Ride for the Troops coming June 5
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

June 6, 2010 will stay in my mind as one of the most awesome days of the summer. The Blue Star Mothers, Northwoods Chapter 9 and a few dads, had the opportunity to help with an amazing group of people raising money for our troops.


This year's event is Sunday, June 5.

Ride For The Troops is a group of committed volunteers that plan an annual 100-mile "Ride For The Troops" through the north woods of Minnesota to raise money for local deployed troops. It started in 2005 when two buddies were talking one evening. Ken Donaghue and Jason Fredenberg came up with this idea to help the families of the deployed guard unit based out of Bemidji. They planned a ride and hoped for 100 bikes. At the end of the day they had 147 bikers participating.

Over the years the numbers have grown, both in terms of bikers and dollars raised. Last year just under 300 bikes registered and collectively raised over $12,000. What started with two buddies planning a fun ride has now turned into two buddies, a radio station and many sponsors creating an event that at moments leaves one breathless with the generosity of the small communities in northern Minnesota.

In 2009 they contacted the Blue Star Mothers, Northwoods Chapter 9 to help with the distributing of this goodness.

One of the projects that the Blue Star Mothers, Northwoods Chapter 9 work and fundraise towards all year is sending Christmas Care Packages to our region's deployed military that can't be home for the holidays. We include many things, from books and magazines to silverware, bowls, snacks, toiletries, greeting cards and many other items, in these boxes. We received a call two years ago at Christmas time from one of the Ride For The Troops founders, Ken Donaghue, asking if they could contribute somehow to our care packages. Wow they sure did contribute! They gave over $7,000 in gift cards and paid for the postage that year to ship those boxes (I think we sent 32). We were so amazed and thankful.

Our military sons and daughters loved receiving their boxes with all the goodies and having that gift card allowed many of them to order gifts for their loved ones at home or use it for necessities while deployed. The next year our group decided that we were going to become involved with the ride and help in any way possible.

On June 6, 2010, we arrived in Bemidji at 7 a.m. ready to pour coffee, serve breakfast and visit with all the motorcyclists as they registered. The sendoff ceremony at noon was like no other. It was very emotional for those of us missing our sons or daughters already deployed and knowing that all of these people from all walks of life are here supporting them too. And also for those who just get emotional at the site of hundreds of people participating and supporting an amazing event taking place in honor of all the military.

At noon we met out at the east entrance of Itasca State Park and participated in a Blue Star Mother Color Guard along with the Park Rapids American Legion Color Guard that the bikers drove through on the way to the last rest stop of the day before heading back into Bemidji. The sight of just under 300 bikes, many of which were carrying American flags, coming over the top of the hill absolutely takes your breath away. In talking with a few of the bikers as they were taking their break, they were so touched by the Honor Guard being present that they even had a few tears. Many of them were veterans themselves and were remembering the not-so-great welcome they received when coming home from fighting for our freedoms.

I remember talking with a couple of them in the morning before they left. It was dreadful weather, rainy and windy and cold. I was thanking them for coming out in the rain and helping to raise money for our deployed military, our son who is in the Army and at the time deployed to Iraq, being one of the recipients of their generosity. I will never forget one comment, "they don't quit in the rain and neither will we."

I still get a tear in my eye when I think of the commitment to the cause they shared with us that day. We were also at the finish at 3 in the afternoon. The weather had improved only slightly by then but no one quit, they rode back, drenched and cold, but all smiles. They'd had a wonderful ride in our beautiful north woods and helped to raise money for our deployed military.

We look forward to helping with this event each year, and maybe someday even ride in it. I am sure we will be seeing some of you this summer.

If you would like more information for this year's Ride For The Troops scheduled for June 5, 2011 contact Ken Donaghue at 218-556-2433 or log onto