BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Hundreds of bikers made a stop at the American Legion Department of Illinois Wednesday to bring awareness about veteran issues.
The five-day, 1,200-mile American Legion Legacy Run, one of the largest organized motorcycle road groups, raises money for a college scholarship fund to benefit children of fallen and disabled post-9/11 veterans. This year’s run starts in Mobile, Alabama and ends in Milwaukee for their annual conference.
Mark Clark, chief road captain of American Legion Legacy Run, said more than 500 scholarships totaling $4.8 million have been awarded since 2006. Each scholarship is renewable for six years.
“We’re pretty excited about providing those kids with a bright future,” said Mark Clark,
This year’s Legacy Run is also raising awareness about the American Legion’s “Be the One” campaign to address the high rate of veteran suicides; 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
“They can be the one that gave a sympathetic ear, be the one to connect a struggling veterans with available services in the community, and be the one to demonstrate that they care about that veteran, and continue to follow up and be part of that veteran’s life. Because if each of us take the time, each of us can save a life, and we can be the one,” said Clark.
Marty Conatser, past national commander of the American Legion, said “it’s very simple but very important” for veterans to be there for each other.
“Talk to them, how are you doing? You might be the one, that one day, that veteran is having the wrong thoughts in his head… We’re asking all veterans not to forget the buddies that you served with. That you should reach out to them, maybe you just might be the one,” he said;
Michael Fox, national commander of Sons of American Legion, oversees all 360,000 American Legion members. It’s his first time on Legacy Run.
“It’s absolutely amazing… The experience, the wind flying through, driving through the heart of America,” he said.
Conatser, who serves as the Illinois department adjutant, said the stop in Bloomington will energize the local American Legion.
“It’s exciting to see the organization as a whole doing good things,” said Conatser.
Clark said 39 states are represented in the run, showcasing the commitment of veterans to their country.
“The veteran community is the most caring community there is in America because they understand what it takes to be able to sustain a free society. Nobody understands what it takes to build a strong community better than someone that’s fought to defend that community,” he said.
The Legacy Run has raised more than $500,000 this year, with a goal of $1 million. To donate, click here.