Bikers’ ride benefits Paralyzed Veterans of America
By Shelley Smithssmith@salisburypost.com
Motorcycle-riding war veterans made their way across North Carolina Saturday, making a special stop at the Hefner V.A. Medical Center in Salisbury. The “King of the Road” charity ride was partnered with Richard Petty Motorsports, benefitting the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
The ride began at Petty Enterprises in Level Cross, stopped at the V.A. Medical Center and then continued to Statesville to their final destination, Richard Petty Motorsports.
Once the motorcyclists arrived in Salisbury, a $4,000 check was presented to Paralyzed Veterans of America, and veterans were able to mingle with the motorcycle- riding veterans.
One veteran rode all the way from Orlando, Fla., to participate in the charity ride. He not only depends on a wheelchair to get around but is paralyzed ó an incomplete tetraplegic.
Louis Irvin served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield while in the Navy. He joined in July of 1987 but was discharged in January 1993 after he injured his neck on a ship in the South Pacific.
Irvin designed and added a custom-built device to his motorcycle, allowing two wheels to move into position as he is stopping and going on his bike.
“All I have to do is push a button, and the two wheels lower or rise up, depending on what I’m needing to do,” said Irvin. He also added a wheelchair holder.
“It’s important to support the veterans and for them to support us,” said Irvin. “It gives a lot of the riders the opportunity to meet the veterans and understand the cause and gives the long-term-care veterans a chance to get out and see something different in their day.”
Darrell Coad, a 52-year-old Army veteran, appreciates the opportunities the VA Medical Center gives him and the veterans.
“When anyone comes out and supports the vets and the vets in nursing homes, it’s a good thing,” said Coad. “When they bring the long-term patients down, it lifts their spirits to see that someone cares, and it lifts my spirits that Richard Petty would take his time and support us.
“Right now in America, veterans and soldiers need all the support they can get.”
Aleashia Brandon, the center’s recreational therapy supervisor, said special events and programs for veterans are essential.
“It improves their quality and provides therapeutic opportunities to enhance their well being,” said Brandon. “Promoting health and wellness is very important.”
Army veteran Kenny Wright was raised around the Charlotte area and is thrilled that Richard Petty is helping the veterans.
“I grew up around speed,” said Wright. “Drag racing and street racing was a way of life.
“And Richard Petty, he’s dynamite. He’s a legend.”
Wright said that one of the first cars he bought was a Plymouth Daytona that was blue with black vinyl.
“It was a real fast car,” said Wright. “The same one he raced in, with a wing on the back of it. I think they only made about 500 of those cars.”
Wright was based in Fort Hood, Texas, during the Vietnam War.
“There were a lot of red alerts, but thankfully they were always cancelled,” said Wright. “I was always on pins and needles.”
Wright is thankful the V.A. Medical Center holds programs for the veterans.
“It gives them inspiration and hope and lets them know that there’s somebody who really cares about you,” he said. “It gives me peace of mind knowing that I’m not by myself.
“There’s still a lot of people that are homeless, and they don’t have to be. I want them to know that whatever they’re doing out there, they can come in here and clean up.”
Wright has worked in the maintenance department at the V.A. Medical Center since 2005.
“This V.A. has helped me a lot,” he said. “I’m proud of each and every man and woman who served in combat.”
Mooresville native Rick Goforth served 21 years in the Air Force, and motorcycle rides are nothing new to him. Goforth is a member of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and several of the members rode in the charity ride Saturday.
“Our group is for combat vets, and we have a ride every year,” said Goforth.
“Our motto is ‘Vets helping vets,’ and anytime there is an opportunity to help them, we do.
“They’ve done so much for our country. They deserve it and have earned it.”
The Paralyzed Veterans of America have already committed to stopping at the V.A. Medical Center during next year’s charity ride.
“We’re really thankful for them stopping here,” said Brandon. “The veterans really love it.”
Blue Bell Ice Cream and Coca Cola provided refreshments during the V.A. Medical Center stop.