Freedom Ride: Motorcycles rev up to raise money for veterans

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Photo Gallery | 2016 Freedom Ride

DALTON — Growling, coughing and roaring, 147 motorcycles wheeled into the Legion Post 155 pavilion at the end of Deming Street on Sunday afternoon, kicking up a brown cloud of dust as they came.

It was the end of the 16th annual Freedom Ride, hosted by veterans of American Legion Post 155. The Freedom Ride is a 65-mile loop around the county that takes the group about an hour and a half to complete.

The ride is a fundraiser for local veterans, according to Michael Lefebvre, president of Post 155 and the Founding President of the Massachusetts American Legion Riders.

The organization does other fundraisers for other local organization, such as Boys' and Girls' State, but, said Lefebvre, "we raise money mostly for local veterans."

The riders both pledge and gather donations, said Lefebvre. The money goes to veterans and veterans causes, he said, More specifically, the funds often help local veterans make ends meet: Perhaps money to help a veteran pay rent, or heating costs, or treatment bills.

The Post welcomes anyone to ride, said Lefebvre.

"Our feeling is, if you want to donate, then donate," he said. "We don't charge. People can ride, they come to the party afterward. We just want people to have a good time."

He lauded a local band, the Hot Shot Hillbillies, who performed after the ride, as well as a local motorcyclist organization, the Crippled Old Busted Bikers (C.O.B.B.) who donated a tent. Those donations, he said, saved hundreds of dollars, all of which could now go to the cause. The event generally raises several thousand dollars.

Road captain Neil Raymond organized the run. He estimated that about 210 riders and passengers participated in the event.

Raymond said his principal duty was to ensue that the route was well-marked and safe for the riders.

In addition to the run, there was food and beverages afterward, s well as the live music.

Of the 210 participants, not all were from the Berkshires. Willie Wilson of Uxbridge, drove about 120 miles to Dalton with several other motorcyclists to participate in the event.

"It's a nice day, and we decided to come and see our friends from Dalton," said Wilson. "We're all veterans, and we help each other out."

"The guys from Dalton ride out to see us," said Craig "Murph" Murphy of Oxford, which is about two hours away. "One hand washes the other It's a giant brotherhood across the state. Veterans and children of veterans helping each other.

"And when we come out this far, we meet new people and make new friends," Murphy said.

Contact Derek gentile at 413-496-6251.


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