ELKHART — The Ride to Remember rumbled through Elkhart County Sunday afternoon, Sept. 8, both to remember the fallen and to provide money for a good cause.
Final numbers as far as participation and funds raised from the Ride to Remember will not be known until sometime this week, after receipts are counted.
But Jim Ballard, one of the organizers of the event, estimated more than 1,000 people participated in the ride, which wove its way throughout the county before concluding at Central Park near the Civic Plaza in downtown Elkhart.
Ballard said that more than 30 different motorcycle clubs were represented in Sunday’s ride, including local police and fire clubs as well as branches of the military.
He added that Nappanee had the best turnout as far as bikers that joined the ride along the way.
“Nappanee, they line the streets. They do it every year,” he explained. “People just showed up in droves.”
This year’s ride raised funds for Blue Knights Law Enforcement and Axemen Firefighter NCI motorcycle clubs. Ballard said the funds raised will be distributed among various local charities.
Besides Central Park, the only other stop the ride made was in Goshen, where a memorial service was held to remember police officers, firefighters and servicemen and women who died in the line of duty.
“The memorial service was wonderful,” Ballard said. “Chaplain Bontrager of the Elkhart Police Department did a wonderful job, as well as the other chaplains from Goshen City Fire and Police.”
Retired Elkhart policeman Randy Cutter rode for the second time in the Ride to Remember Sunday.
“It was absolutely wonderful,” Cutter said of the ride.
“It was a little emotional at times,” he continued. “The ceremony at Goshen P.D. with the reading of the personnel that have died in the line of duty and the playing of taps and Amazing Grace on the bagpipes is a son of a gun.”
After purchasing a bike two years ago, Cutter said joining the annual ride simply felt right.
“Just being a retired police officer,” he explained, “after I got the bike, it was just something I wanted to do.”
After starting out with only about 50 bikes in their first year, the annual ride has grown exponentially to become the event that paraded through the county Sunday afternoon.
Now in its 15th year, the Ride to Remember is as much about brotherhood and camaraderie as it is about remembering and charity.
Ballard said he continues to organize the ride every year to “spend time with my brothers from other communities, the police and fire, and along with the military.”
“It’s a time we can spend with each other and have a good time,” he said.
“When you get a group of bikers together, they’re the most charitable people you’ll ever meet,” Ballard continued. “We’re charitable individuals who like to give to our community, from all walks of life.”
Invigorated by Sunday’s turnout, Ballard advised people to “Look out for next year.”
Next year’s ride will benefit the Wounded Warrior Project through the Michiana Harley Owners Group.