American Legion riders hit the road to aid VetDogs program

The American Legion Riders from Towson Post 22 hosted its second annual fundraiser on July 8, hitting the road to benefit America's VetDogs, an organization that trains and supplies service dogs to disabled veterans at no cost.

"We did very well," said event chairman Doug Hopkins, a resident of Nottingham who grew up in Towson.


"We raised over $3,500, which was really good," Hopkins said.

"We had a little over 50 bikes," he said, "but it wasn't the turnout I expected, because of the heat and possibility of rain.

According to the organization's website, America's VetDogs was created in 2003 when the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind recognized the need for service dogs in America's veteran population.

Hopkins said he was introduced to the program four years ago when a veteran who served in Iraq came to speak with the Northern Central District of the Sons of the American Legion, and gave an impromptu lesson in the importance of service dogs.

A dog that accompanied the veteran, at one point in the speech, began to bark.

The veteran excused himself for a few moments, went into another room — and had a seizure.

His dog, Hopkins said, had been trained to sense seizures before the veteran could, allowing the veteran to find a safe place before it began.

The American Legion Riders traditionally organizes groups for parades and other ceremonies and promotes motorcycle safety. But the group also supports programs of the American Legion and other veterans' outreach efforts.

When the Towson riders decided last year to dedicate one of their monthly rides for a fundraiser, Hopkins and other riders decided to raise money for America's VetDogs.

Last year, Hopkins said, about 50 riders participated in their first fundraiser, which brought in $1,400 for America's VetDogs.

Before this year's event, Hopkins said the group was looking for as many as 100 riders, and on July 5, they had already raised $2,250 ahead of this year's ride.

Towson American Legion Post 22, the Towson Sons of the American Legion, the Towson Elks, and several other groups donated before the event, while 20 businesses, including the Baltimore Ravens, 98 Rock, Dunkin' Donuts, and NAPA Auto Parts also helped the effort by donating items for a raffle.

With their $20 donation, each rider received a raffle ticket that was used to distribute as many as 60 items at the end of the ride.