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Riders remember the fallen, raise money for charities

By Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor
Photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman

The largest escorted motorcycle ride in the state of Florida will be held tomorrow and it begins right on MacDill's doorstep. Motorcyclists from across America will gather at Gadsden Park, just off base, and ride in procession through the streets of Tampa to honor the memory of those lost on Sept. 11.

Two very important charities will benefit from this event. Operation Warm Heart and the Gold Shield Foundation, serving the families of local law enforcement, fire, EMS personnel and families of enlisted military personnel stationed here at MacDill.

The ride is open to "anyone with a motorcycle, a proper license and riding gear," said Tom Allen, a volunteer for Operation Warmheart.

Immediately following the ride there will be a commemorative ceremony at Channelside followed by a country-music concert starring Nashville recording artist Keni Thomas.

"All in the motorcycle fraternity have a good feeling when they can participate in benefit rides for any worthy cause," said Mr. Allen. "In this case it is in remembrance of those who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Also to praise those in the fire departments, emergency rescue, law enforcement and military who serve and protect us every day.”

Since its humble beginning, Remembrance Ride has grown to become an event with riders numbering in the thousands each year. They travel from Alabama, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and many other states to join forces with Tampa Bay's biking community in a show of solidarity to pay tribute and honor the memory of those lost on that tragic morning.

That adds up to thousands collected each year to donate to the receiving charities. To date, Remembrance Ride has raised almost $200,000 to benefit a variety of charities including the Twin Towers Fund, Gold Shield Foundation, Special Ops Warrior Foundation and Operation Warm Heart.

"We collected $25,000 from last year’s ride. The 1st Sergeants Council controls the disbursement of the funds to young enlisted troops who prove a great financial need," said Mr. Allen.

The day gets underway at 7 a.m. when bike staging begins at Gadsden Park. At 10 a.m. the motorcycle procession will depart with law enforcement escorts representing motor units from Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department, Florida Highway Patrol and many other law enforcement agencies from across Florida.

The procession will be led by sixteen members of the New York City Fire Department who've become an integral part of Remembrance Ride.

"On behalf of my brothers and myself we are very honored to be invited by Harley-Davidson of Tampa, Brandon and New Port Richey to participate every year since its inception in "The Remembrance Ride" we thank you Tampa. To keep this alive is so very important to every American citizen…not only those, like ourselves, who were directly affected by the horrific devastation of September 11th," said Lt. Brian Grisanti, FDNY spokesman for the group. "We look forward to leading the ride on Saturday, September 10th in remembrance of the 343 brothers of FDNY who made the supreme sacrifice."

Riders are scheduled to roll into Channelside around 11 a.m. At noon, a solemn, commemorative ceremony gets underway followed by the Keni Thomas concert beginning at 1 p.m. While participation in the procession is limited to motorcycle riders, the post-ride event at Channelside is free and open to the public.

Even those without motorcycles are invited to take part. Tampa Bay Area residents are encouraged to welcome the riders into Channelside and attend the post-ride event.

Commemorative t-shirts are $15 and benefit the charities.

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