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Motorcyclists raise money for veterans

June 06, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, PA. - When motorcycle gangs led by Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin descended on a small town in the 1954 film "The Wild One," the townspeople were terrorized, but when 1,700 motorcyclists rumbled down Baltimore Street on Sunday, people came out to cheer them on.

"We come out to watch them every time ... We don't even have a motorcycle," said Judy Miller, who watched the procession with her husband, Richard. "They're doing something good. It's for the veterans."

"Especially since they're turning all the money over to the veterans. I think it's fantastic," said Mary Anne Smith of Waynesboro, Pa.

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Brando and Marvin may have been up to no good, but the men and women who participated in the 15th annual Operation God Bless America were riding with a purpose - to raise money for the patient fund at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., according to A.J. Davenport of Mercersburg, Pa., who has organized the event for the past decade with his wife, Mary Anne.

Just before noon, the number of riders who had plunked down $10 to take part in the ride hit 1,683 when a couple more walked up and asked if they could register. A.J. Davenport said more usually register once the riders reach Martinsburg.

T-shirts, hats and pins also were sold to benefit the veterans, he said. Mary Anne Davenport said this year's record number of riders would help Operation God Bless America raise about $30,000.

"That money all gets used for the veterans," A.J. Davenport said. If Uncle Sam does not provide it, the money raised by the riders helps buy it for the veterans, A.J. Davenport said. That can be anything from personal hygiene items to the 30 televisions the ride raised money for last year, he said.

The Davenports start organizing the ride in January, coordinating with nine diverse motorcycle groups, A.J. Davenport said. That includes the Washington County, Md., Keystone and Mason-Dixon chapters of ABATE, the Chambersburg Harley Owners Group, the Goldwing Road Riders Association of Chambersburg, Pa., the Red Knights of Waynesboro, Pa., the U.S. Military Vets of Maryland, the Christian Motorcycle Association and the Derelicts Motorcycle Club, he said.

Other clubs also were on hand.

"We do this every year to support the V.A.," said Tike Loizos of Bunker Hill, W.Va. He said he was with the Southern Berkeley Motorcycle Riders, as was Jayme Neally of Bunker Hill.

"We're the Deuce Twins," he said, referring to the Harley-Davidson models they were riding. "She just got her bike this year, so she's riding solo for the first time."

Rick Nowark and Debbie Burkett of Frederick, Md., brought another passenger with them - a 2-month-old puppy named Max. Burkett said they thought it would be nice to bring Max along because the patients probably don't get to see pets very often.

"I hope we can sneak him through," she said of Max, who seemed happy enough in a pet carrier.

On Baltimore Street, Deelana Kennedy of Chambersburg waited for her husband, Mike, to ride by.

"We bought our first Harley for our 17th wedding anniversary in January," she said.

Nearby, Shirley Carbaugh of Williamson, Pa., waved an American flag, receiving waves and the blare of horns from riders in return.

"I've got three sons and a grandson and a niece riding," Carbaugh said. "I've come for I don't know how many years and I'm cheering and praying for them," she said of all the riders.

"Motorcyclists get a bum rap," she said.

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