11th Freedom Ride raises money for The Way Home vets program

MANCHESTER — Vincent Farruggio started up his BMW motorcycle Sunday outside Stark Brewing Co. with his mini fox terrier, Roscoe, on board to join other motorcyclists for a 40-mile ride to raise money for a good cause.

Roscoe, who was wearing an American flag sweater, had a safe space perched on the front of the bike to take part in The Way Home’s 11th annual Freedom Ride Heroes and Hogs Sunday morning. The event raised money for veterans housing.

“The need doesn’t stop,” Farruggio said.

Since 1988, The Way Home, a Manchester nonprofit organization, has helped more than 21,000 homeless and high-risk families, individuals, veterans and special needs clients with their housing needs.

The event was delayed a day because of heavy rains Saturday caused by Hurricane Laura.

“It was a way to remember the veterans we’ve lost as well as the ones still out on the streets homeless,” said Bianka Beaudoin, executive director of The Way Home.

About 40 riders showed up, which is down by 20 or 30 riders from previous years. The COVID-19 pandemic and moving the event back a day are likely factors for the drop in riders.

The route took the riders on scenic back roads to the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, where a short service took place and taps was played.

Laura Cardinal, road captain of the Manchester Motorcycle Club, said the club supports the ride every year.

“This is a good turnout,” she said. “With everything that is going on with COVID and the last-minute date change because of the weather this is a really good turnout. Every year we get a little more, a little more.”

The club will continue to be involved in subsequent years.

Lew Hedberg of Nashua returned to the ride for his second time. He served in the U.S. Army and did one tour of duty in Vietnam.

“Those in the motorcycle community respect those who served and I just think it’s a great program,” he said.

Congressman Chris Pappas offered a few words before the riders hit the road. Across the country, one out of nine veterans faces homelessness, he said.

“We have to make sure we are there for those who served all of us,” Pappas said.

Many motorcycle events have been pared back this year because of COVID-19, including the annual Bike Week in Laconia.

“It was pretty packed on Friday,” Farruggio said. “I was hearing it was pretty dead all week, but there were bikers who came through and patronized the businesses. It was obviously not like it was last year. People just made the best of it.”

The summer hasn’t been a complete bust, though.

“It didn’t stop people from getting together for rides,” Farruggio said. “But many of the establishments were closed so we didn’t have a place to congregate.”

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Source: New Hampshire Union Leader