Mike Bulla of Highland waits to roll out during the 13th annual American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association fundraiser, Sept. 30, 2012, at Wicker Park in Highland Ind. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 10, 2012 1:57AM
Thirteen is a lucky number for the American Veterans Motorcycle Riders Association.
This year, the group’s 13th Victory for Veterans Run at Wicker Park in Highland drew about 2,300 motorcyclists. Friends Lynda Dolan of Dyer and Margaret Miller of Cedar Lake were among them.
“This is a terrific support for our veterans,” Dolan said. “We can’t do enough for them.”
Added Miller, “It’s a very moving experience to be part of this.”
Each year, the event keeps getting bigger and better, said AVMRA vice commander Paul Day.
“The North Township trustee came up with this run when the expansion of Indianapolis Boulevard was taking place,” Day said. “The (Highway of Flags Veterans Memorial, on the southeast corner of Ridge Road and Indianapolis Boulevard) was going to have to be taken down, and there was no funding to replace the memorial.
“AVMRA was asked to help put a benefit together to raise money to move the memorial into Wicker Park, so it never could be threatened again. All profits for this run go to building and maintaining the Veterans Memorial.”
Although a newer configuration of that long-ago project for the Indianapolis Boulevard expansion did not include moving the memorial into the park, there has been more added to the memorial area, and upkeep also continues as a task for the veterans.
Bikers found support along the route in a new way, as the Griffith Fire Department used its ladder trucks to drape the U.S. flag.
“This was a nice touch — very patriotic,” said Jeff Oliver of Merrillville. “We weren’t expecting that. It was very cool.”
In the vendors’ area, Pat Mobley of Hammond brought her sewing machine to sew patches on jackets and vests. She works as a seamstress and attended the run last year, noting that many patches were sold and she saw a need for her talent.
“It’s so awesome to see this support for the veterans,” she said as customers lined up. “We don’t ever want to forget what they did.”
The event filled Wicker Park with food, raffles, vendors and entertainment, but also attracted interested bystanders. Jacob Santos of Hammond and his family noticed the motorcyclists returning from the run. Nina Santos’ father served in Vietnam, and she has other family members who are veterans.
“This (fundraiser) brings us back to what America is all about — support for each other, especially those who have served for our freedoms,” she said. “These are the freedoms we take for granted.”