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Bikers ride to give back

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs event 6 p.m. at Skinner Field

If you hear a loud rumbling in the distance Saturday, it might not be thunder. It could be 800 Harleys on their way to honor veterans in your community.
The “Giving Back Memorial Run” will leave the Grand Rapids Veteran’s Facility Saturday, July 14, and make stops in six communities—Sparta, Newaygo, Croton, Morley, Howard City, and Cedar Springs. They will hold a ceremony and honor veterans and/or their families at each stop, and the community is invited to attend. They will be in Cedar Springs at Skinner Field at 6 p.m.

Doug Pickel, of Azuant Custom Plaques, and his friend Kurt Lampman, who is known for his motorcycle events, planned the ride as a way to say thank you to our Veterans.

Not only will they honor one or two purple heart veterans at each stop with a custom plaque, but the bikers will also drop between $1 and $5 each in a donation barrel to benefit the area American Legions and or Veterans of Foreign War Posts. The money earned from biker entry fees and t-shirt sales will go to the VA Home Foundation and the Michigan Fallen Warriors Memorial.

“The northern areas of Michigan have been hit hard by the economy,” said Pickle. “We are doing this as a way to get communities involved. We are gonna touch hearts, open minds, give love back.”

Before they leave the Veterans Facility at 1 p.m., Pickel said they would honor a 10-year-old Grand Rapids girl, Gabrielle Pratt, whose father was killed in the war, and she is now living with an aunt. “So many want to help her,” he said. They will also honor the mother of Krista Howell, the young woman who lost her life in a car accident. That happens at noon.

From there they will ride to Sparta and honor a WWII purple heart veteran, Charles O’Hanesian. He was with General George C. Patton’s 2nd armored division. They will also give a cash donation to Dakota Hommerson, a young person needing a double lung transplant. In Newaygo they will honor two purple heart veterans from WWII and Viet Nam; in Croton they will honor two purple heart veterans from WWII and Viet Nam, along with a woman who actively supports the veterans and works in the community; and in Morley they will honor two purple heart veterans from Viet Nam.

Pickle said the presentation in Howard City would be extra special. The purple heart veteran is Ken Kruger, who served in Viet Nam. Several Howard City businesses pitched in to sponsor the plaque on behalf of the community, and it will be Kruger’s grandson, Cody Rambo, making the presentation. Rambo will soon be leaving for Marine bootcamp.

The last stop for the bikers is in Cedar Springs, about 6 p.m., at Skinner Field (the football field behind Morley Park). They plan to honor the family of Timothy Brown, who was killed in action in November 2005. They also plan to honor another purple heart veteran, as yet unannounced. The Glen Hill Post #287 Honor Guard will be in attendance. “They are the sharpest honor guard I have ever seen,” noted Pickel.

The community is invited to the event, which should last about 30 minutes.

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