Elks Ride For Homeless Veterans

Motorcyclists took a scenic ride to the William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery. (Photo courtesy Jackson Elks)

JACKSON – Motorcyclists braved tornado warnings and early morning rain, but ended up with a great turnout for this year’s Motorcycle Ride & BBQ on June 24.

Mike Baldwin’s famous BBQ ribs and chicken. (Photo courtesy Jackson Elks)

The Jackson Elks hosted this year’s event, but it’s a collaboration between many local Elks – including Brick, Bayville, Toms River, Freehold, Lacey and Manahawkin – who are all part of the New Jersey State Elks Veterans Committee.

The event is a yearly one, offering more than just great food, live music and camaraderie, but a fundraiser that goes toward helping local homeless veterans. For the first three years of the ride, the group was able to raise $7,000. Last year, that number was blown out of the water as riders and BBQ-goers raised a whopping $18,000. Although there were fewer motorcycles this year due to the rain, Joe LaMonica with the Jackson Elks said “preliminary accounting” shows it’s possible that number could still be beat.

Motorcyclists took a scenic ride to the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Memorial Cemetery, which is about a 20 minute ride from Jackson. A quick ceremony was done in honor of veterans, taps were played and then the group rode back to the lodge for the BBQ.

“We don’t care whether you ride, take a car, it doesn’t matter to us,” said LaMonica.

The Missing Man Ceremony is performed by Jackson Am-Vets Commander Roy Mallot, backed by bagpiper. (Photo courtesy Jackson Elks)

Another part of the day set a more emotional tone. LaMonica said that if you walk into an Elks Lodge, you might find a small table set in the corner neatly, with one chair and one plate, set up for one person. It’s meant to symbolize the soldiers who never made it back.

“There’s a whole ceremony to it. It’s very moving,” he said.

The Missing Man Ceremony was performed by Jackson Am-Vets Commander Roy Mallot, to the tune of a bagpiper, as he explained what each item on the table was and what it meant.

A BBQ followed at the Jackson Elks Lodge that brought out a huge crowd to enjoy ribs and chicken, hot dogs and hamburgers, drinks, vendors and classic rock music by the Mangos. Next year will be the 6th year the event raises money for local homeless veterans.