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American Legion Riders hit the road for good causes
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Monica and James Woods accepted a check from American Legion Rex Ish Post 88 and the American Legion Riders in 2011. The money will help with medical expenses for their baby boy Tanner, who was born with multiple heart defects. - photo by Journal file photo

Although their motorcycles and leather jackets may look tough, the mission of the American Legion Riders is all heart. 

The group of motorcycle enthusiasts spend their time raising money for veteran support programs, children's charities and hospitals — all while finding a sense of camaraderie on the open road.

There are over 106,000 American Legion Riders in chapters in across the country and in at least three foreign countries. The Turlock chapter of the Riders was started by Ken Cummings in 2001.

"I saw a patch in the American Legion catalog and decided to start a group there in Turlock," Cummings said.

The Turlock chapter raises money for local nonprofits and also participates in events like the Fourth of July parade in downtown Turlock. Cummings said the highlight of the year is the Valley Veterans Run, which starts at the Almond Tree Restaurant in Turlock and ends at the Hitching Post Bar & Grill on Highway 49 at Ahwahnee. The ride proceeds go to Operation Comfort Warriors, an American Legion program dedicated to meeting the needs of wounded, injured or ill military personnel by providing them with comfort items not usually supplied by the government like sweat suits, DVDs, puzzles, electronic devices, books, and calling cards.

Celso Anacleto joined the Riders just three years ago.

"When I was a young man I rode for years, then I grew up, went into law enforcement and raised a family," he said. "In retirement it was nice to get a motorcycle and ride again."

The Turlock American Legion Riders are looking for more members. To join, a rider must be a member of the American Legion, American Legion Auxiliary or Sons of The American Legion.  The group meets at 9 a.m. the Sunday of the month at the American Legion Post, 75 Bothun Rd. in Turlock.

For more information, contact Carol Goldsmith at 668-1341 or Celso Anacleto at 634-3725.