CLINTON TOWNSHIP — With the roar of engines and the smell of gasoline, hundreds of riders departed from the Wolverine Harley-Davidson dealership for the 10th annual Ride for Freedom.
Sunny, warm weather helped spur a stellar turnout of about 500 motorcycles for the June 23 event, which is hosted by Wolverine Harley-Davidson in Clinton Township, in conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 154.
All told, the event raised about $20,000 this year — including a $5,000 donation from Wolverine Harley-Davidson — for the VVA Chapter 154’s Veterans Support Center in Roseville.
“Anybody who needs something — guys who are hurting for one reason or another — we give them help,” said Jim Watts, commander of the VVA Chapter 154 Honor Guard. VVA Chapter 154 members attended the Ride, bringing military vehicles.
This year’s ride was dedicated in memory of Staff Sgt. Patrick Wisniewski, a 33-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran and New Baltimore reserve police officer who was killed while riding his motorcycle in a June 2 accident caused by an intoxicated driver. Wolverine Harley-Davidson reportedly donated money to Wisniewski’s widow and five children.
This year’s Ride for Freedom began with a continental breakfast at the Wolverine dealership that morning.
At 11:30 a.m., bikers roared out of the dealership, heading up Jefferson Avenue, through northern Macomb County and then south to a party at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights, where they gathered for food and music. At Freedom Hill, organizers also raffled off gift cards, a military quilt and a $1,000 gift card from Wolverine Harley-Davidson.
Proceeds from the raffle went to veterans programs, including the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.
A motorcycle road crew shut down traffic for the motorcycles along the 45-mile route, and various public service agencies — including the police and fire departments of Clinton and Chesterfield townships, New Baltimore police and the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office — helped block off traffic and commemorate the day, as well.
The Macomb County Young Marines, an education and service program for Macomb County youth aged 8 to 18, also volunteered to help set up and clean up during the event.
Ride for Freedom Chairman Pat Daniels said the majority of those who participate in the annual ride are veterans, themselves.
Daniels, a Vietnam veteran, said without the contributions from the Ride for Freedom and from donations to the center, the Veterans Support Center wouldn’t be open today. Through volunteer efforts, the center provides food, fellowship and other forms of support to veterans of all times.
“The only thing we owe them is everything,” Daniels said of veterans.
The Veteran Support Center is located 16945 12 Mile in Roseville. The center’s phone number is (586) 776-9810.
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