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More than 150 riders rumble onto campus for the 15th Annual American Legion Ride

Before the first of nearly 100 motorcycles with American Legion riders chapters and Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association chapters across Southeastern North Carolina rumbled onto the Boys and Girls Homes campus on Saturday, you could hear their growling engines and a feel vibration in the ground. 

More than 150 riders, mostly veterans, visited BGHNC for the 15th Annual American Legion Ride and affiliated rides, their annual benefit for our nonprofit. BGHNC youth left their basketballs on the court and dropped their bicycles to run to see the different motorcycles. One rider knew the campus better than most - Richard Sharpe, who lived at BGHNC 1976-1979 as a refuge from his father's abuse. He drove three hours from Monroe, N.C., to join the ride to visit his former home. 

From age 14-16, Richard lived in Jaycees and Lions cottages. "I met God when I was here; got saved. Later, I prayed to God, one day, I said, would you make me a better man, and he sent me my wife. We've been married now for 37 years in August," he said. When Richard's mother divorced his father, he was able to go home to live with her. At BGHNC, "I learned not to be so angry in my life, and I wanted to be a better man than my Dad was," he added. "They say abuse in children passes down through the family. I was determined to stop that; just say no more."

The ride started 15 years ago when BGHNC board member Linda Oldham asked Rora Kellis of Vass American Legion Riders 296 to get it started. He’s still organizing the ride. Today, many different motorcycle clubs join them including American Legion Riders from Vass, Garner, Little River, S.C., Jacksonville and Calabash, as well as Warrior 180 and Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association chapters. The chapters compete for who can raise the most money. The winner gets a coveted plaque. Through the years, the event raised more than $100,000 for Boys & Girls Homes. This year alone, the event raised more than $12,000. 

“This is the only thing that I’ve ever done in my life that I can lose the plaque and still win because the kids win,” Rora said. BGHNC youth got to participate in a patch ceremony inducting three new members to the Silver Coast Chapter of the CVMA. All three kids smiled widely as they handed each new member their new leather motorcycle vests with a large round embroidered CVMA patch with its scull and black ace of spades on the back. Frank Bellini, chapter commander of CVMA 15-13, gave each kid volunteer a special CVMA coin to keep as a souvenir.

To see more photos from the event, please visit our Facebook page here. 

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