Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Ride for the Vets Raises More than $5,700
Approximately 135 bikers took to the highways and back roads of Oklahoma on Sept. 22 to participate in the third annual “Ride for the Vets,” a poker run that raised more than $5,700 for Veterans who receive their health care at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center and Hartshorne, Tulsa and Vinita VA Outpatient Clinics.
The poker run began at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa with a free breakfast courtesy of the VFW Post 577 in Tulsa. After registering for the event, bikers had the opportunity to purchase event t-shirts, “bug dots” and poker hands.
At 9 a.m., bikers departed the Tulsa Clinic and then made stops at the VFW Post in Claremore, American Legion Post in Pryor and Elks Lodge in Wagoner where they could also buy poker hands and bug dots. The participants ended their ride at the Creek Nation Casino in Muskogee where they were served lunch courtesy of the casino, treated to music from the Harley Hamm Band and they also had the opportunity to buy tickets for a 50/50 raffle and door prizes.
Proceeds from the event will be used to purchase comfort items for inpatient Veterans such as toiletries, shaving gear and socks, as well as help towards hosting a Valentines for Veterans Concert in Muskogee featuring country music singer Aaron Tippin. The concert is scheduled for Feb. 14, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. at the Muskogee Civic Center.
Vietnam Veteran Jeff Gist has participated in the event the last three years and said he enjoys the camaraderie with other Veterans and giving back to a worthy cause.
“It’s great to see a bunch of us getting together and seeing so many people supporting the Vets,” said Gist. “It gets bigger and bigger every year.”
Greg Sorenson, chief of Voluntary Service, said several bikers traveled from Missouri and Arkansas to participate in the poker run.
“People who participate in the Ride for the Vets always enjoy it,” said Sorenson. “We’ve seen some that have taken part all three years.”
Sorenson thanked everyone who donated money, food and items for the event and the 28 volunteers who worked at each stop along the route. He also singled out VA volunteers Kim Williford and Nancy Ellis for helping to obtain donations from local businesses and organizations.
“It takes quite a few people to pull an event like this off,” said Sorenson.
Along with supporting Veterans, VA also took the opportunity to conduct outreach at the Tulsa Clinic and Creek Nation Casino to educate Veterans about VA services and the Veterans Crisis Line.
“When Veterans call the Veterans Crisis Line, they hit 1 and get connected to a VA call center, so it’s people actually trained to talk with Veterans,” said Tina Bevans, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, who conducted outreach at the Tulsa Clinic. “About 20 percent of suicides are Veterans and we have 37,000 suicides across the U.S., both Veterans and non-Veterans, every year. Through the Veterans Crisis Line and VA Suicide Prevention Program, we’re trying to reduce the number of suicides among Veterans.”
The Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255, then Press 1.
Thank you to following who donated money or items to the Ride for the Vets: American Legion, Applebee’s, Bob Loftus, Country Club Apartments, Country Club Liquor, El Chico Café, Gary Hunst, Gino’s Italian Restaurant, El Chico Café, IHOP, Incor Sheltered Work Activity Program, JD & Joan Smith, Nancy & Thomas Taylor, Oil Express, Okie Country 101.7, Oklahoma Biker, Ruth Faulkner and the VA Voluntary Service Committee.