LEGACY RIDE – 9:45 a.m. Raise money for scholarships for the children of post-9/11 veterans. Join the American Legion Post 259 and the Red Knights chapter 44 for this memorial motorcycle ride marking 20 years since that fateful day. Cost $20/participant, kickstand up at 11 a.m. Begins at The American Legion, 279 Chestnut St., Oneonta. 607-432-0494 or visit www.alrpost259.org/legacy
BLOOD DRIVE – 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Main Street Baptist Church Briggs Hall, 333 Main St., Oneonta. 1-800-733-2767 or visit www.redcrossblood.org
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.”
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.”
Hartwick College TKE fraternity brothers Tyler Fish, Sal Schaper and Dan Eagles prepare pans of ziti and meatballs ahead of their monthly volunteer dinner at the Oneonta Veteran’s Club. But where they usually serve to help raise money for the club, tonight, the proceeds will go to Michael Bucci, the local chapter’s refounding president from 1993-94, who is battling cancer. The dinner, which includes ziti, meatballs, salad, bread, beverage and dessert, is $10 and runs until 7 p.m. at the Vet’s Club, 279 Chestnut St, Oneonta. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)