American Legion Riders chapters are often well known for their charitable work, which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local childrens' hospitals, schools, veterans' homes, severely wounded service members and scholarships. Since 2006, Riders nationwide have participated in the Legion Legacy Run, to raise money annually for the Legacy Scholarship Fund, established to provide scholarships to children of U.S. military personnel killed since September 11, 2001.
For the latest in Riders apparel and gear, including patches, go to Legion Rider Merchandise – Emblem Sales.
In 1993, in Garden City, Michigan, Chuck “Tramp” Dare and Bill “Polka” Kaledas, commander of American Legion Post 396, shared an idea to start a motorcycle enthusiasts association within the organization. The two longtime riders wanted an environment where Legion family members could come together to share a common love for motorcycles.
Dare and Kaledas wrote a letter to Michigan Department Adjutant Hubert Hess, sharing their idea. Hess replied that he liked the concept and wanted to pursue it. Later, he gave Kaledas and Dare instructions for managing the program at the post level. He also explained how they could be approved to use the American Legion emblem, and how to gain Membership’s support and recognition. At a regular meeting, Post 396 members passed a resolution for a new program to be known as the “American Legion Riders.”
Joined by 19 other founding members from their post, Dare and Kaledas were flooded with requests for information about their organization. They agreed to establish a central source for the Riders to ensure that chapters formed not as motorcycle clubs or gangs, but as Legionnaires and Auxiliary and SAL members joining to ride as Legion family. Pat Babcock, an SAL member from Michigan, created a website with sample by-laws and instructions for forming new chapters. AmericanLegionRiders.net remains the primary source of information and assistance for new chapters.
Currently, 106,000 American Legion Riders meet in over a thousand chapters in every domestic department and in at least three foreign countries. Riders in Iowa have formed an honor guard called The Five Star Freedom Riders, and Riders in Mulvane, Kan., founded the Patriot Guard to protect the sanctity of military funerals from protesters. Riders in all states have escorted military units returning home from combat tours overseas, conducted massive cross-country fundraising events for wounded warriors from all services, and have raised millions of dollars for countless local, state and national charities.
True to the Legion's grassroots tradition, each chapter manages its programs at the post level, where the best ideas are born. The Riders are part of many projects and events, including: