COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Thousands of people revved their engines today to give back to our local veterans at the 19th annual Vet's Christmas Charity Ride.
The riders started at Carolina Honda and drove to the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center.
The Vet’s Christmas Charity Ride was founded in December of 2000 by three men: retired Army Sergeant Major and General Manager of Carolina Honda Jim Wertman, owner of All American Heating and Air and member of South Carolina Gold Wind Riders Association Gene Royer, and owner of Carolina Honda Earl Small Jr.
Each year since, organizers say there have been more riders, sponsors, and of course more donations.
“This is the largest bike ride in the state of South Carolina,” Medical Center Associate Director with the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center Jeffrey Soots said. “This is where everybody comes to bring gifts to our veterans. We actually get about 20 cubic yards of gifts.”
Many of the riders are veterans themselves and some have been riding for years.
“Of the 19, I’ve missed two of them,” Richard Mullinax, a Navy veteran who rode his motorcycle in the event said.
Mullinax makes this ride a tradition.
“I’m a disabled American veteran myself. So I know what it means,” Mullinax said. “When you do something like this it touches them deeply in their heart and it’s worth every bit of it to honor them.”
The ride itself brought smiles to patient’s faces.
“I think it is a gorgeous thing and it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced anything like this,” Ervin Harwood Weatherly, an Army Veteran who is a current patient at the Dorn VA said.
Every present is a small token to remind our heroes they are not alone for the holidays.
“A lot of veterans don’t have loved ones here at the time and it’s just another way that the community shows how much they care for the veterans,” Soots said.
Organizers said the 2019 ride received the largest amount of gift donations.
All of the in-patients and residents at the Dorn VA will start getting those gifts next week, as well as, Christmas Eve.