The second annual Troop Support Ride, which collects items to send to soldiers overseas for the holidays, will take place Saturday.
"These men and women deserve to be recognized,'' said Kathy Willson, an American Legion Rider from Post 256. "They're not at home. We have to support them."
Organizers of the event are asking the public to donate items such as food or snacks, toiletries or entertainment items.
"It's really important that the soldiers have these little things — from actual Christmas ornaments to socks to crackers — so that they know somebody from home soil is behind them," Willson said.
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Willson said they receive numerous thank you letters from families, and even soldiers, after the holidays are over.
"We had one letter we received from a soldier that was really heartfelt," she said. "It said, 'There are no words to say how thankful I am to receive this box. Me and my buddies are thankful for the big morale boost and it helps us know people are behind us.' "
Donation boxes are available at all Wichita-area Pizza Huts, Blockbuster Videos, Taco Bells and American Legion Posts 256 and 408.
Donations will be accepted until Oct. 24.
The Troop Support Ride, which features motorcycles and military vehicles, begins at 2 p.m. at the Derby American Legion Post 408, 101 S. Baltimore.
People are encouraged to ride their motorcycles in the parade or bring an American flag to wave and line the parade route along Broadway from 71st Street South to Pawnee.
Items brought to the Troop Support Ride on Saturday will be loaded onto trucks at Post 256. Nov. 12 is the anticipated shipping date to have the packages arrive by Christmas.
An "After the Ride" party will be held when the ride finishes at about 3 p.m. at Post 256, 4301 W. Pawnee. There is no cost to the event, which includes a live broadcast by KFDI, 101.3-FM, bike show and bands. Food will be available by donation.
"People should not feel like they have to give a lot of money for food," Willson said. "We are happy for your quarters, nickels and
Money collected will be used to buy postage to send the items overseas.
Last year 18,000 pounds of goods were shipped to troops at a cost of $20,000.
About 800 bikes took part in the ride last year, but Willson said organizers expect to double or triple that number.
"If you are an American citizen and you enjoy your freedom, then we hope you will come help us and support our troops," she said. "We don't have this unless the community helps."
Anyone interested in having a box sent to a soldier may send the soldier's address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"It doesn't have to be in Iraq or Afghanistan," Willson said. "We have sent packages to many other places. If you send an address, we will make sure they get a box."