Riders line up for the 2017 Wreaths Across America Ride to Remember at Garner Trucking. This year’s poker run begins at noon Saturday. The annual ride is a significant fundraiser for Wreaths Across America, Hancock County, which provides live evergreen wreaths to be placed on veterans’ graves at Maple Grove Cemetery. (Provided photo)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN

LIFE EDITOR

The mission of Wreaths Across America, Hancock County, is simple: “To have every veteran’s grave, all 4,000 of them, covered in wreaths. That is our ultimate goal.”

That lofty intent is related by Brent Palmer of Findlay who, along with Josh Davis, has organized the Christmas-in-July-reminiscent Wreaths Across America Ride to Remember since 2016. The poker run has grown every year since its inception and has become a significant fundraising effort for the December wreath placement at Maple Grove Cemetery.

Palmer says last summer’s ride drew about 60 bikes and raised between $6,000 and $7,000 for the effort. The fourth annual ride will be held Saturday, with motorcycles (and four-wheeled vehicles) departing from Garner Trucking at noon.

“I’m hoping this year to break 100 riders,” says Davis, who notes the first year’s ride was organized in just four weeks and drew about 30 bikes.

Palmer and Davis are both diesel technicians at Garner Trucking which, through its longtime Truckload Carriers Association membership, has participated in the Maine-to-Washington, D.C., convoy transporting wreaths for the graves at Arlington National Cemetery for the past six years. The program was introduced in Findlay three years ago by Jon Brumbaugh, son of Garner Trucking owner Sherri Brumbaugh, as his Eagle Scout project.

Last December, wreaths were placed at about 1,200 veterans’ graves at Maple Grove. Each live evergreen wreath costs $15, and including the money brought in from the Ride to Remember, about $16,000 was raised for the 2018 wreath laying effort. As the wreaths are placed at the graves, volunteers say the veteran’s name out loud and thank them for their service.

There are an estimated 4,000 to 4,500 veterans buried at Maple Grove Cemetery, and Wreaths Across America organizers rotate wreath placement annually to ensure every veteran’s grave is adorned through the years.

Palmer himself is a veteran of the Army Reserves based in Toledo, having served from 1992 to 2000. Davis comes from a military family, but a high school football injury prevented him from entering the Marine Corps. Both men are members of Findlay AMVETS Post 21 and its Riders group.

Ride to Remember registration is available from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday and is $20 for single riders, $25 for doubles (cash only). A poker hand buy-in is $10, with a $100 pay out awarded for best hand.

Kickstands will go up at noon, with the first stop on the ride at the Kenton AMVETS. Additional stops include the Ada VFW, Ottawa VFW, McComb VFW and Fostoria AMVETS. The final stop is at the Findlay AMVETS at about 5:30 p.m., where dinner and live music from South of Six will be available through 9 p.m.

For more details, call Palmer at 419-722-0302 or Davis at 419-672-1095.

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