Love Ride Bike Rally Raises Thousands for USO
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
By Joseph Andrew Lee
That wasn’t thunder you heard on Sunday, Los Angeles. It was the longest-running and largest-grossing, single-day motorcycle rally in the world, and it raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the USO’s mission of supporting troops and their families.
The Love Ride – a 40-mile ride from Glendale, Calif., to Castaic Lake – was attended by nearly 5,000 motorcycle riders and supported by 22 Harley-Davidson dealerships throughout Southern California.
“For nearly 30 years the Love Ride has had one mission: to demonstrate to the citizens of greater Los Angeles that the Harley-Davidson owner is a responsible, giving and loving member of his or her community,” said Oliver Shokouh, owner of Harley-Davidson of Glendale and the founder of Love Ride.
“Since the start of this ride, back in 1984, we have raised more than $25 million dollars for many different charities,” he said. “But at this moment there is one group of Americans who really need us most – our troops.”
The ride started bright and early Sunday morning outside Harley-Davidson of Glendale, Calif., with a performance from Strawberry Alarm Clock and a thorough roasting of about a half-dozen celebrity guests and local city officials by Grand Marshal Jay Leno.
Once they reached Castaic Lake, riders dined on popular Los Angeles food trucks such as Pink’s Hot Dogs, enjoyed cold beverages and listened to performances by Canned Heat and George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
Shokouh was witness to what happened during the post-Vietnam era, when public support wasn’t there for his peers when they returned from war. He believes Americans must step up and help this new generation of troops.
“Two million troops – many of them just teenagers – are coming home from war,” he said. “They are struggling with reintegration, they are unable to find work and they aren’t coping very well being home. Suicide rates are at an all-time high, and I believe the USO is the single charity that is in that right place to make a real difference where morale is concerned – for our guys right now on active duty and into the future as they come home.”
The same sentiment was echoed by riders, sponsors and troops alike who attended the event.
“It makes sense: the USO and Harley-Davidson motorcycles,” said Willie G. Davidson, chief styling officer emeritus of Harley-Davidson and the grandson of founder William A. Davidson. “We have a history of support for the military that dates back about 100 years. It’s great to see these guys in uniform out here having a good time, and it’s great to see them finally coming home. I’m proud to be here to welcome them, and I’m grateful for the USO for helping them the way they do.”
Love Ride organizers said the event grossed roughly $440,000. The USO will receive the remainder of those funds once all event costs are paid.
“Overall this was a tremendously successful event,” Shokouh said. “Next year we hope to partner with the USO once again, but this time we want to make it huge – we hope to see Love Ride 30 not only bigger and better than 29, but perhaps the biggest Love Ride in history.”
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Photo caption: USO of Greater Los Angeles Executive Director Bob Kurkjian, actor Robert Patrick and “The Tonight Show” host Jay Leno stand on stage at Sunday's Love Ride in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo credit: USO / Joseph Andrew Lee)
Donate today to support our troops this Veterans Day during the USO’s “Grant a Wish for Our Heroes” campaign.
Federal employees can help the USO fulfill its mission to support troops and their families though the 2012 Combined Federal Campaign. Please designate #11381.
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