JACKSON – Two Ocean County veteran support groups teamed up to help a non-profit organization host a benefit that honored a Manchester man who was taken much too young.
Amvets Post #2 based in Jackson hosted the well-attended second annual Riding Safe For Richie Fundraiser at their facility earlier this fall. The event was a benefit for the foundation which is a state wide agency founded in 2019.
The goal of the foundation is to help keep young riders safe as well as help seniors with scholarships for college and to remember Richard Caputo II.
Denise Kent, of Whiting said, “my nephew was killed in a motorcycle crash on August 27, 2019. I had moved to New Jersey on August 19 from New York and he died eight days later. I knew God put me here to be with my sister and that is how my journey in New Jersey started.
“We wanted to make something out of this tragedy that happened to our family and turn it into something positive. They don’t have legislation for people that ride motorcycles to have a safety course. We want to get legislation so that they have to provide you with a safety course. They are expensive and these kids get these expensive bikes and then they can’t afford the $500-$600 that it costs,” she added.
In addition to the training, the foundation also supports scholarships for Point Pleasant, which is where Caputo went to school. The group gave two scholarships and also help animal shelters, she said. “We try to branch out and our friend’s granddaughter has leukemia so we are trying to help her.
“We want to do something positive out of the tragedy. All these lovely people rode today as part of the event to this location. My nephew would have expected nothing less of us,” Kent added. “He was 23 when he died. He would have been 26 on October 8. We always try to do something around the time of his birthday. This is his birthday party from us.
“We remember him every year. My cousins all came in from New York and we have friends from Maryland that are here and others who live here in New Jersey. We also have people from Virginia,” she said.
A photograph of Richie was propped on hay bales in front of the front door of the Amvets Post. The benefit featured a gift basket auction and food. Members of the family sported specially made T-shirts designed by Richie’s mother.
Kent added, “my nephew would have helped anybody, anywhere. I can’t even begin to say how many lives he touched. Some came here today and shared their stories of him. Our original goal was to open up a treatment center for grieving mothers and fathers and sisters and aunts and whomever. There would be a room where you could break everything and then go to therapy, massages and work through your grief.”
“That was the original reason we started so we could create a huge grief center. We reached out to some others who had lost their children but with COVID and everything we altered it a bit but that is ultimately what we’d like to do. We’d like to open a place where grieving parents could go. You want to smash stuff because you are angry. You want to break dishes and you want to talk to other people,” she said.
Kent said the family wanted to connect those grieving with others who feel the same way. “I’m the aunt. I don’t know what my sister feels. He was her child.”
Richie’s mother, Donna Caputo and his sister Jessica also noted the goal of opening a grief center. “These kids get these bikes (motorcycles), they finance them and nobody offers the course so I would like to see when they finance the bikes, the (safety) course gets rolled in and they have to take it,” Donna Caputo said.
Funds from that day’s event would go to area animal shelters. “My son really loved animals. He would have loved that so in his name and because we want to help the community, we wanted to do something for the animal shelters in this area.”
Fleet Reserve Association Ray Rizzo said “I knew Richie for four years and his untimely death was disheartening.”
Rizzo said “we’ve done joint fundraisers before. We just did one for a little girl who has leukemia and we raised over $14,000 for her family which was just awesome and it was again thanks to Roy and the Amvets for letting us use their facility. Roy and I, while we didn’t serve together, are both retired Navy and we both retired off Lakehurst (Naval Base, now part of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst). The greatest thing about veteran organizations is that it doesn’t matter if it is American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Amvets – when it is time to come together, we come together.”
Craig Zinkoski of Whiting is a member of the Post # 2 Amvets and the Fleet Reserve Association also helped bring the organizations together. “I reached out to the commander and they allow you to bring in groups to rent the hall for a membership donation. The commander said sure and it was all agreed upon. These are my friends for a long time. This is Donna’s second benefit for her son. I knew her son.”
Amvets Commander Roy Malott said, “we were happy to do this and to work with both organizations.”
The Foundation is working on creating a website but at present those wishing to support their efforts can go to the Riding With Richie Facebook page.