Bikers stage Christmas ride for vets

jmonk@thestate.comDecember 9, 2012 

PHOTO COURTESY DORN VA MEDICAL CENTER

More than 1,300 motorcycles, many bedecked with U.S. and state flags, rolled into Dorn VA Medical Center on Garners Ferry Road Sunday afternoon bearing gifts for veterans. Bikers came from various kinds of motorcycle clubs, brought together for the unifying purpose of commemorating veterans.

“It was the biggest ride ever — we brought a lot of Christmas to the vets,” said Jim Wertman, general manager of Carolina Honda, of the ride’s original sponsors.

The 12th annual Vets’ Christmas Charity Ride netted more than 1,000 gifts for veterans in Dorn’s 204-bed hospital, as well as for homeless vets in the Midlands area.

The more than 20 event sponsors hope to raise up to $5,000 or more in cash donations to buy more gifts for veterans. Gifts included everything from back packs to warm socks to phone and gift cards to ball caps.

Speakers during the ceremony included S.C. National Guard commander Maj. Gen. Robert Livingston Jr. as well as Dorn Medical Center director Rebecca Wiley.

Livingston, an accomplished motorcycle rider, led the 1,300-plus bikers on a 10-mile trip from starting point Carolina Honda north of Columbia, though the city and east to the Dorn Center.

Riding by Livingston’s side, on other motorcycles, were Gene Royer, owner of original event sponsor All-American Heating & Air, and Kevin Schwedo, executive director of the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

“We had bikes stretched out for miles and miles – it was beautiful,” said Royer. Disputing an informal count of more than !,300 motorcycles, Royer said the actual number of motorcycles was at least several thousand.

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