ODON — Veterans in Odon are taking the fight to the backroads on Saturday, and those veterans are asking anyone with a side-by-side to join them.
The fight is against cancer, and Odon VFW Post 9627 and its Auxiliary are staging the fourth annual side-by-side Cancer Ride, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“Anyone with a side-by-side is asked to join us,” said Auxiliary chaplain Keith Bechtel. He and his wife, Lora, are the organizers of the inaugural ride and have been there every step of the way.
The ride is a not-for-profit fundraiser that disperses funds to families dealing with cancer.
“It seems everyone knows someone who is dealing with cancer, and we want to help,” Lora pointed out.
Wanting to help an Odon VFW Post friend was the impetus for organizing the ride. That friend was diagnosed with cancer and Post members wanted to raise money to offset expenses. It was the desire to help that sparked the idea, which put the ride into motion.
“We can’t do anything about the disease but we can help the family in some small way,” Keith said.
The Odon Post has raised and disseminated almost $53,000 in the effort that now is in its fourth year. That money is doled out in $200 and $300 chunks.
The VFW donations to area families are intended to alleviate some bills, be it utility bills or expenses associated with traveling for cancer treatments.
Donations are paid from the funds raised from the ride. Side-by-side drivers pay $20 and each rider pays $10.
What entrants pay ends up yielding big rewards.
“You can’t imagine the emotions you have when you hand a check to someone who is battling cancer,” said Bechtel. “They shed tears and so do you.”
However, few tears are shed on the day of the ride.
“The ride is just a fun day,” said Doug Benjamin, Auxiliary trustee. He reported the day begins with a drive to the Walnut Hills Cemetery for a somber-but-short prayer service, followed by a stop at the Odon Park, then breakfast at the Longbranch Saloon in Elnora, a stop at the River Inn in Newberry, a visit to the Lonely Nights Saloon at Crane Village, then a return to the Odon VFW for a barbecue dinner.
“It’s a day of fellowship, fun and raising money for a good cause,” Lora said.
Side-by-side owners will meet at the Odon VFW, 212 E. Elnora St., for registration Saturday morning at 9; the ride begins an hour later. Return to the VFW will be approximately 6 p.m. Ride support is provided by Odon Police as traffic is stopped for the nearly-mile long procession of side-by-sides.
Those unable to make the drive are encouraged to send a donation to the VFW; checks can be mailed to the VFW as payee, marked for Cancer Ride.
“We will make sure the money we receive is put to good use,” Keith Bechtel promised.