Home Motorcycle In Lino Lakes, a motorcycle ride will raise funds to provide free assistance dogs to veterans

In Lino Lakes, a motorcycle ride will raise funds to provide free assistance dogs to veterans

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With a Vietnam War-era helicopter flying overhead to lead the way, dozens of motorcyclists will take a six-hour ride on Saturday to raise money for an organization that provides free service dogs disabled veterans.

Four years ago, a few members of Lino Lakes American Legion Post 566 attended a graduation ceremony for newly commissioned service dogs at Believet Canine Partners. The members were so touched that they adopted the Northfield, Minnesota nonprofit and have held an annual fundraiser ever since.

“It’s a pretty emotional experience to see someone in need when they get their dog,” said Mike Schwartz, who organizes the American Legion Riders fundraiser for Believet. “It’s a very tearful event.”

Schwartz said up to 250 runners are expected to participate in Saturday’s race with the goal of raising up to $10,000. Participants do not need to be a Legion cavalryman, a member of the American Legion or have any ties to the military, he said.

That money is much needed, said Sam Daly, who founded Believet, which relies solely on donations to cover the $30,000 needed to train and feed each service dog.

Most donations come in installments of $5 to $25, but “we rely on organizations to fundraise for us,” he said. Without groups like the Legion Riders, “we would be bankrupt”.

Without Believet, Laura Ritt, 37, of New Richmond, Wisconsin, said she may not be alive. Ritt was one of the few women to have worked in security forces for the Air Force. It was stressful and led to a medical retirement in 2014, she said.

“That’s when things really came to a head,” said Ritt, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “I realized I couldn’t hide behind the job title.” Ritt said she was considering suicide.

In 2018, she found Believet and received her service dog, River, a Black English Lab, which probably wouldn’t have happened without the support provided by groups such as the Legion Riders.

“I think they’re a godsend,” Ritt said. “Anyone willing to take that much time out of their day to raise money for Believet to save other veterans, they’re angels.”

Daly started Believet after serving two postings in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor training Marines and military dogs to detect explosives. Daly returned to Northfield with a new mission in life: to help military veterans like the Marines he encountered in Afghanistan.

He saw the positive results. Veterans like Ritt “have a reason to get out of bed now. They have a reason to hope,” Daly said.

Over the past eight years, Believet has provided about 50 dogs to veterans free of charge and has another 42 veterans on the waiting list.

Saturday’s Legion Ride will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Lino Lakes American Legion. From there, the single-engine helicopter used during the war will escort the motorcade to the veterans’ camp on Big Marine Lake in Marine sur Sainte-Croix. Riders will participate in a flag removal ceremony. Next, riders will travel to North Branch for lunch, then stop at the St. Francis American Legion before returning to Lino Lakes for a taco buffet dinner and raffle.

David DuChene, 71, of Faribault, suffers from PTSD and has a lung disease attributed to Chemical Agent Orange to which he was exposed while serving in the Vietnam War. He said he considered killing himself until he found Believet three years ago and teamed up with a poodle named Jack.

“It was the best thing that ever happened,” DuChene said. Donating “is one of the best things people can do. It will help feed and train the dogs of future vets. We appreciate that.”

Lino Lakes American Legion Walking Tour

When: Registration 8:30 a.m. Saturday; departure at 10:30 a.m.

Where: Lino Lakes American Legion, 7731 Lake Drive.

Cost: $20 for passengers, $15 for passengers

Information: 651-783-0055; www.linolakeslegion.com