Jennifer Mickle, Chair of the Relay For Life of Otsego County Committee, pins a purple ribbon button on the vest of Chris Chase, Assistant Director of the American Legion Riders, before the start of the third annual Foliage Run to benefit the Relay for Life at the American Legion Post 259 this afternoon. “Cancer didn’t stop just because COVID happened,” said Mickle. “We can’t hold the walks right now because of social distancing, but donations are appreciated and needed now more than ever.” Another rider who drew some attention was Chase’s dog Pixel, pictured at right, who was ready to ride inside her safety harness and goggles. To donate, please call (607) 287-3588, or visit the Relay for Life of Otsego County facebook page. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Rob Martinez, American Legion Riders director, and Assistant Director Chris Chase have made it their mission to make the ride substance-free in recent years. But they wanted to make sure today’s ride was COVID-free as well. Before the start of this year’s 18th Legacy Run, Chase created a blog post on the Legion Riders website promoting safe practices for all riders. Riders, like Nathan Epps, Gloversville, top photos wore masks and had their temperatures checked by Devin Chase, Oneonta. “The Legacy Run is a scholarship to benefit children of soldiers and veterans who have passed away or have become disabled since 9/11,” explained Martinez, seen in image on right. “This year we’re doing it a little different,” added Chase. “Instead of giving all the proceeds to the national Legacy fund, we will be splitting it with our own fund. Last year no children from New York received any support, so with the money we keep we will make sure half of it goes to our local kids.” some will also go to businesses who contributed to the Legion Riders over the years. “We know some of them are struggling and this is a way for us to give back and thank them for their support,” Chase said. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Chris Chase, son and grandson of veterans, just wants to make sure that all veterans can enjoy the ride safely.
“We were concerned that many of our motorcycle runs involved a lot of alcohol,” said Chase, assistant director of Oneonta Post 259’s American Legion Riders. “We’d stop at a Legion, people would have a few beers. And then we’d stop at the next one and they’d do the same. We don’t have anything against alcohol, just against drinking and driving.”
So last fall, Chase unveiled the “Dry Run” concept, where the Legion’s annual rides would all be alcohol-free. “The first time we did it was the 2018 Foliage Run,” he said. “And we got some flack. But Ken Gracey at the Red Knights 44 Motorcycle Club (a firefighter and EMS motorcycle club) told me to stick to my guns.”
The Legion Riders, a branch of the American Legion, uses motorcycle rides to raise funds for local and national charities. “We’re motorcycle enthusiasts, and like to say we love our community, vets and pets,” said Chase.
Though not a veteran himself, Chase is eligible for the Legion Riders as the son of Alvin Chase Jr., a Vietnam-era veteran, and grandson of Alvin Chase Sr., a World War II veteran.
And though a few riders grumbled, Chase was surprised at how many came out in support of the Dry Run.
“We saw a lot of riders who hadn’t come with us before because they were concerned with the alcohol use, now they’ve started riding with us,” he said. “The Red and Blue Knights, older riders and responsible folks – we gained people who love the idea!”
In addition to new riders, Chase said they’ve also seen an increase in sponsorship for their rides, and have started working with the Oneonta Police Department to escort the veterans taking the Leatherstocking Honor Flight out of the Albany International Airport.
“It’s usually our coldest ride, but when you see those veterans being honored during the ceremony, it doesn’t matter how cold it is, it warms you right up.”
Chase had patches made, and since then, all of their six annual rides have been dry. “It forces us to get creative,” said his wife Charlotte. “But the fun part is finding places that don’t serve alcohol.”
They’ve stopped for ice cream and at scenic spots, as well as the motorcycle safety track. “That was awesome,” he said. “We got to get out there and go really fast.”
They still stop to see their fellow veterans at other Legions along the route, but pledge to abstain from buying alcohol at the bar.
In addition to promoting safety, Chase also wanted to raise awareness of drug and alcohol abuse among veterans, as well as the drinking culture among bikers. If you’d like to take part in a ride like this, you may want to invest in some motorcycle ear plugs that will make the ride less harmful for your ears and generally safer. Riding loud bikes without ear plugs can often cause severe damage to a rider’s hearing.
“We’re working with LEAF Inc. to write educational materials about dry runs,” he said. “We want to change that perception about bikers.”
“I am so happy with what Chris is doing,” said Julie Dostal, LEAF executive director. “With veterans, motorcycle deaths account for 38 percent of deaths by motor vehicle accidents. With this data, it’s very clear that the Oneonta Legion Riders are taking the safest stance possible to keep our veterans with us longer.
“They’re a treasure, and they deserve to be treated as such.”
LEAF was the beneficiary of this year’s Fall Foliage Fun. “We were honored,” said Dostal. “And I hope that the Dry Runs will catch on across the state and go national.”
The patch isn’t just for American Legion Riders. “Any motorcycle club can use it,” Chase said. “We’re putting together a website that will have the logo and promotional materials that they can use to promote their own Dry Runs.”
He’s shipped patches as far away as California, and when the Dry Run website goes live, motorcycle clubs will be able to chose which charity gets the proceeds from the sale of the patches.
“We want to keep growing it because we know it will make a difference,” he said. “Statically, we’ve already saved a life.”
Seventy-six of American Legion Riders, Nam Knights and The Red Knights, took off from Oneonta’s American Legion Post 242 this morning on the 2nd annual Foliage Ride, to benefit LEAF. The ride also drew attention to a new “Dry Run” patch adopted this year, signifying their rides are alcohol-free. Created by the riders Assistant Director Chris Chase, the patch is gaining popularity in the region, and efforts are being made to have it go nationwide. “Veterans are our treasure!” said LEAF Executive Director Julie Dostal, seen above with, from left, Chase, Chris Dennis and Rob Martinez. “The fact they are willing to do this and keep them all safe is phenomenal.” Other chapters are already having their own custom “Dry Run” patches created to promote happy, safe and sober riding. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)