Gloomy skies did not overshadow the spirit of Sunday's Operation God Bless America motorcycle ride, which began in Greencastle and ended at the Martinsburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Virginia.
An estimated 500 riders participated in the 28th annual event, with roughly $20,000 being raised for the veterans at the medical center.
"This is a way for us to publicly stay connected with our veterans while benefitting the patients any way that we can," said Mary Anne Davenport of Mercersburg, one of the ride organizers who has been involved since the inaugural event in 1991. "My family has a lot of military ties, and it's important that we help our veterans. We have several veterans who ride, and we just try to show our appreciation for their service."
The weather did have an impact on Sunday's overall turnout, with Davenport recalling around 2,700 riders last year raising $60,000. Still, a parade of motorcycles roared down Baltimore Street in Greencastle en route to the Martinsburg VA Medical Center, which provides health care for veterans from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
"The weather definitely hurt, but at least it's not raining," said Davenport. "Several people still gave donations even if they weren't riding, and many of the local clubs are really big supporters. There are a lot of people and businesses involved to make this a success."
The concept behind the ride began in 1991 as a way to benefit troops serving in Operation Desert Storm. Once the conflict ended, it was decided proceeds from the ride would be donated to the Martinsburg VA Medical Center. Nearly three decades later, the Operation God Bless America motorcycle ride continues to thrive, with funds now benefitting a patient recreational fund. Some of the numerous projects at the Martinsburg VA supported by money raised from the ride include purchasing a van for travel, installing wheelchair accessible sidewalks, horseback riding therapy, gym equipment, gaming systems and sending teams to competitions.
"We want our funds to go directly to the patients," Davenport said. "We do this to honor them, and it's nice to be able to make a difference."
For more information on the ride, visit www.ogbaride.com or like Operation God Bless America Ride on Facebook.