The majority of this year’s recipients are either small local grassroots organizations or local branches of regional or national initiatives that rely on donations and barebones volunteer staffs to deliver their important services.
In order to provide support to these programs, in 2009 the newly established Central Bucks Rotary club launched its Ride for the Heroes motorcycle ride and picnic, which is held annually on the first Sunday in June.
Each year, 75 to 100 volunteers commit many unpaid hours to ensuring the event’s success – over 12,000 hours since its inception to raise $450,000 (https://ridefortheheroes.com/beneficiaries/).
“What we do as a club pales in comparison to what our beneficiaries do for the vets every day,” said Damon Derstine, event chair and charter member.
The club thanked member Sean Sablosky for his sponsorship of the 2019 Ride for the Heroes.
He was given a plaque recognizing him as this year’s largest supporter.
Grants were awarded to these 13 initiatives:
*Care Packages to Go, Theresa Sabloskyhttp://www.goodtogocareboxes.org/. This 100% volunteer-run nonprofit fills and ships snack, hygiene and birthday boxes to U.S. Marines, soldiers and sailors deployed throughout the world.
*Meghan’s Foundation, Thomas Shortt https://www.meghansfoundation.org/. Develops and delivers trauma-sensitive yoga and meditation programs to help veterans in Bucks County and Lehigh Valley who may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD. Vets and spouses or partners attend for free.
*Operation Eternal Gratitude, Frank Woodring https://www.cbsd.org/Page/10949. The junior class at Central Bucks East started this holiday gift drive for victims’ families in response to the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. The program has expanded to the sophomore and senior classes, and 11K pounds of gifts and items have been shipped overseas by the HS club to American servicemen and women.
*Operation Homefront Doylestown, https://www.operationhomefront.org/contactus. This national program builds strong, stable, secure military families so they can thrive in their communities by providing financial assistance, transitional housing, mortgage-free homes (600 homes to date, nationally), holiday meals and toys, backpacks with school supplies.
*Operation Stand Down, Ed Stellar http://www.philastanddown.org/.
Since 1994, has “gone to wherever veterans are” and brought them to a central location where a host of critical services are delivered with the help of various organizations including the VA. With an emphasis on but not limited to homeless vets, the organization sees that vets’ needs are met for health care, legal advice, meals, shelter, clothing and more to help them achieve self-sufficiency.
*Our Community Salutes, Bucks & Montco, Anita Fleming https://community.ocsusa.org/bucks-montgomery-county/.
National, non-profit organization helping communities recognize, honor and support high school seniors who plan to enlist into the U.S. Armed Services after graduation. Locally, the dinner this year honored 120 students.
*Shamrock Reins, Janet Brennan https://shamrockreins.org. Provides equine-assisted activities and therapies for veterans, active duty and reserve service members, first responders and their families, and the families of fallen heroes.
*Tails of Valor, Heather Lloyd https://www.tailsofvalor.org/. Non-medicinal, psychological therapy program using rescued dogs, each named for a fallen soldier, that are highly trained before being assigned for life to a vet. The unique program is designed to address the normal behavior and needs of the canine while addressing the symptoms of PTSD and TBI.
*Bucks County Tour of Honor, Christine Ferrara & Joe Szafran Jr https://www.visitbuckscounty.com/listing/bucks-county-tour-of-honor/4248/. Honors veterans from WWII, Korean and Vietnam wars with an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington DC and its veterans’ memorials and other sites, plus special activities and ceremonies, all expenses paid.
*Bucks County Bucks County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ Veteran Transport, Dan Fraley http://www.buckscounty.org/government/CommunityServices/MilitaryAffairs/VeteransBenefits. Provides free transport for veterans to Philadelphia and Coatesville VA Medical Centers, carrying 18,000 vets to date. This summer, the program adds Victor J. Saracini VA Outpatient Clinic.
*Vietnam Vets Gift Cards, Dan Fraley – Program dispenses donated gift cards – $20,000 to date – to help vets and their families at that moment when a little help makes all the difference.
*Travis Manion Foundation, Hugo Lentz https://www.travismanion.org/. National organization founded by local family in honor of their son and brother, Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion, killed in Iraq in 2007, it aims to build a community led by vets and families of fallen heroes who work to develop character in future generations.
*Gold Star Mothers https://www.goldstarmoms.com/. A national organization begun after WWI – now with local chapters throughout the U.S. – to give families of fallen military men and women comfort in fellowship and the work of helping veterans, those serving and their families and communities.
PHOTO CAP: Damon Derstine (left) and Chris Lewis (right) present plaques to Sean Sablosky for his top support of the 2019 Ride for the Heroes motorcycle ride and picnic, which raises funds for the grants presented to 13 organizations that support veterans’ needs. Photo by Marc Steiner.