Revving for a cause

9th annual Ride for the Heroes will honor local veterans and families of fallen soldiers June 3

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

A special salute: The Central Bucks Rotary Club will host its ninth annual motorcycle Ride for the Heroes to honor and raise funds to support veterans and families of fallen heroes. Source: Ilena Di Toro

A single motorcycle zooming down a crowded street is enough to turn a few heads. Imagine the powerful sight and roaring sound of 700 flying past. On Sunday, June 3, this rare scene is exactly what locals across Bucks County and even New Jersey can expect to see.

From 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Central Bucks Rotary Club will host its ninth annual motorcycle Ride for the Heroes. Beginning at the Garden of Reflection in Lower Makefield and ending at the Fraternal Order of Police Picnic Grove in Bedminster, the event will honor and raise funds to support veterans and families of fallen heroes.

The Times recently caught up with Ride for the Heroes organizer and Rotary member Mark Glidden, who has been involved with this hyperlocal cause since day one. According to Glidden, the concept of the event stemmed from the organization’s ambition to provide funding to nonprofits in the community. Initially, the Rotary was unsure whom exactly it wanted to help.

It wasn’t until it stumbled upon the Travis Manion Foundation — a nonprofit founded by Doylestown’s Tom and Janet Manion after their son was killed in the line of duty that assists soldiers coming out of Iraq — that the Rotary knew it wanted to aid military-related causes.

Since a number of Rotarians were already avid motorcycle riders, member Damon Derstine proposed a bike ride to raise money for families such as the Manions.

“This event wouldn’t happen if not for him,” Glidden said.

Ride for the Heroes realized success fairly quickly, welcoming more than 200 participants its first year. Now, anywhere from 500 to 700 is the norm. Since its creation, the event has raised more than $250,000, with all money benefitting Bucks County-based veteran services rather than ones on a national scale.

“We wanted to affect people on a local level,” Glidden said.

Though the beneficiaries change from year to year, Glidden explained they’re largely small nonprofits with very specific missions. For example, a portion of last year’s $40,000 went to two elderly couples, whose sons served in Afghanistan. The four would spend thousands of dollars sending supplies such as sunglasses, gloves and lip balm to soldiers on the front lines. Thanks to the Rotary’s financial assistance, they were able to focus on collecting more items rather than saving money for shipping.

Ride for the Heroes kicks off at 8:30 a.m. at Lower Makefield’s Garden of Reflection, where the bikers check in and reconnect with friends they haven’t seen since the previous year’s ride. During a brief ceremony, the names of fallen heroes are read. Prior to the event, community members are welcome to submit recognition requests through a donation of $50. The first 30 received will be announced before the ride, and all submissions will be posted on the event website.

Next, it’s time to hit the road. For approximately two and a half hours, bikers embark on a police-escorted ride that travels along River Road, through Stockton, New Jersey, and along Main Street in New Hope, which Glidden said shuts down to traffic for at least 20 minutes.

“It’s quite a sight to see,” he said.

Throughout the duration of the ride, red lights are nonexistent, allowing bikers to enjoy the freedom of not having to stop and start every few minutes. But riding for such an extended period of time can get exhausting, so the Rotary makes sure participants can replenish their energy when they reach that finish line.

Riders, families and neighbors are invited to a post-ride picnic at Bedminster Township’s Fraternal Order of Police Picnic Grove, where they can enjoy music, beer, awards and all-natural food donated by Wellshire Farms.

Registration is $50 for a single rider, $70 for double riders, $35 for picnic only and $30 for an event T-shirt. The first 100 registrants will receive a commemorative Ride for the Heroes patch.

The Rotary encourages local businesses to show their support for the nation’s heroes by becoming a sponsor. For more information, visit ridefortheheroes.com/ride-sponsors ••

If you go…

Central Bucks Rotary Club’s ninth annual motorcycle Ride for the Heroes and Picnic will take place Sunday, June, 3, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Rain date is June 10. The police-escorted ride will begin at the Garden of Reflection, 1950 Woodside Road, Lower Makefield, and end at the Fraternal Order of Police Picnic Grove, 82 Scott Road, Bedminster Township. Check-in begins at the Garden of Reflection at 8:30 a.m. and continues until 10:30 a.m. For more information and to register, visit ridefortheheroes.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com