125 motorcycles circled the Fort Scott Cemetery. On that warm Saturday in August, their annual mission had only begun. Associates at Labconco's Fort Scott plant have been involved with the national nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America (WAA) for years. They take WAA's mission to remember, honor and teach personally.
People at Labconco play a big part, and Labconco is a sponsor of the event. But it's not just us. People from all over our community and the region come together to make it happen. The Wreath Riders organized their annual motorcycle ride to raise funds needed to honor Fort Scott's veterans. The final stage of their event will come months later. The memorial ceremony, when they adorn the veterans' headstones with a fresh balsam wreath, will be held in mid-December.
Kevin Wagner, Labconco Manufacturing Engineer, is close to the heart of the Fort Scott Wreath Ride operation. "We're hoping weather will allow us to escort the tractor-trailer carrying the wreaths into Fort Scott with the motorcycles leading the way." The informal parade will announce to the town that their loved ones are being honored.
"Proceeds from the Wreath Ride and sponsorships allowed us to purchase 2,053 wreaths as of right now," Kevin said. "We're still taking donations and selling wreaths for specific grave requests up to the week of Thanksgiving. We need about 6,000 to completely cover Fort Scott National Cemetery." The Wreath Riders have been selling shirts to support their cause. "We've almost sold out of shirts and had to take orders for later this week."
Last year, the Wreath Ride consisted of 184 motorcycles. They raised enough money to sponsor 3,600 wreaths and adorned more than half of the 5,600 headstones at Fort Scott Cemetery.
“The Wreath Ride started as an effort to raise awareness for our mission, and has grown into one of the biggest events of the year in our community,” said Kevin Wagner. “Every year, we are able to sponsor more wreaths than the last. Our goal this year is to raise enough money to honor every veteran buried here.” And our Wreath Riders aren't finished yet. "We're contemplating having a 5K run and walk in October," Kevin added.
All proceeds from the event go toward wreath sponsorships. Every $15 donated sponsors one wreath that will be placed at Fort Scott Cemetery on National Wreaths Across America Day.
“Each donation is a meaningful gift from a Wreath Ride participant or supporter who knows what it means to serve and sacrifice for the freedoms we all enjoy,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of WAA. “We are so grateful to the community of Fort Scott for hosting this event and for continuing to spread our mission.”
For more information about the 5th Annual Wreath Ride, or to help out:
Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission — Remember, Honor, Teach — is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at more than 1,200 veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond.
National Wreaths Across America Day is a free event, open to all. For more information, to donate or to sign up to volunteer, please visit WreathsAcrossAmerica.org.
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