America’s Wounded Warriors

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, JUNE 4, 2008—The final results are in and the Defenders of Freedom Veterans Recognition Ride to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project has been an overwhelming success. With over 215 participants and $2,700 in donations collected this over 40 mile ride, “The Longest Law Enforcement Escorted Motorcycle Parade in the State of Colorado”, was noted by many participants to have been “the best organized and smoothest run ride of it’s kind” they had ever participated in.

Colorado Springs Realtor Brian L. A. Wess spent three quarters of a year organizing the event that took place on Sunday, May 18th “To recognize all those who serve and have served this country and to give back to those who defend our freedoms and have selflessly sacrificed so much for our country.” he said. “The outpouring of support from the participants and both the expected and unexpected sponsors was heart warming and encouraging.”

Wess started his solo quest to put an event together back in September of 2007 by researching and then contacting the Wounded Warrior Project , a national 501c3 non-profit organization that assists severely wounded service members and their families with overcoming the limitations caused by their wounds, about the possibilities of creating a local event to benefit their cause.

Having worked as a prolific volunteer in Colorado Springs over the years and having been recently recognized by being awarded the 2008 President’s Volunteer Service Gold Award for volunteering over 507 hours of personal time last year, Wess knew what he was looking for. “It was important to me to find an organization where I could be certain its resources went to the service members who need the assistance and didn’t spend too much of the monies it took in on “administrative costs”, Wess said.

There were several challenges that had to be to overcome to bring the event to reality. First were several negotiations with the Colorado Springs Police Department with regards to the route and date. “I originally wanted to have the event on Armed Forces Day which was Saturday May 17th this year, but the Colorado Democrats decided to hold their state convention in the Springs that weekend and the all the CSPD’s resources would be in use for that.”

In the end, Wess agreed to change the date to Sunday, May 18th and amend the route through Colorado Springs according to the recommendations made by the CSPD so the they could support the event. “It was extremely important to me that the event not only raise donations and honor our service members past and present while raising awareness, but it also had to be done in a safe, organized and professional way,” he said. The participation of law enforcement was a key to this.

“There was no question in my mind that the CSPD and the El Paso Sheriff’s Departments had to be involved in this ride”, Wess said. “Aside from the fact that their participation with escorting and traffic control helps to ensure safety for both the motorcyclists and the motoring public, many of these men and women have served in the military and also serve our community in an often thankless and sometimes perilous job that helps to protect the community. It is only right that they should be included and invited participate in an event that shows their support for our military.”

Getting enough sponsors to offset the costs of the event so the monies collected the day of the event could go directly to the Wounded Warrior Project and ultimately the service members they help was an ongoing concern. “I was really surprised”, says Wess, “by how difficult it was to generate enough sponsorship funds and ultimately even more surprised at who some of our sponsors ended up being.”

For the most part, they were not the usual suspects who you would think of would support a motorcycle event. Those who helped with monetary sponsorships were Berwick Electric Company, Thunder and Buttons II, The Law Tigers, and Rocky Mountain Coors Light and Miller Lite. Lockheed Martin provided the facilities, support items and people for staging the beginning of the event and Frankie’s Too in Falcon sponsored food and drink specials as host of the after event party.

“I cannot say enough about the good hearts and generosity of the sponsors of this event.”, said Wess, “All of them gave to assist us help our Wounded Warriors when those you would normally expect to donate to an event of this type said no.” He points specifically to a small local bar, Thunder and Buttons II, in Old Colorado City and Berwick Electric Company as small company sponsors who stepped forward when needed.

Wess also noted the support of the Lockheed Martin facility at 9970 Federal Drive in the Northgate Area of Colorado Springs. “The folks at Lockheed Martin really jumped in and not only provided their parking lot when Pikes Peak Community College told us we couldn’t use theirs, but also helped so much with the logistics and items needed to help stage this event. I cannot thank all of our sponsors enough!” Even with the sponsors help, Wess still had to come up with an additional $650 of his own money to make sure all the event costs were covered and no money had to come out of the donations collected. When asked about the future Wess said “I had originally planned this as a one time event, but I have had so many people who participated and sponsors express such enthusiasm about next year that I have decided to give it another go in 2009.” He pauses a moment, “I am told it gets easier the more times you do it.” he says with a laugh.