MERIDIAN — Organizers expect about 600 motorcycles to take to Treasure Valley streets Sunday to benefit military families for the first Idaho Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride.

Registration fees and contributions from individual donors and sponsors will support the Wounded Warrior Project, the Idaho Guard and Reserve Family Support Fund and Mountain Home Air Force Base’s Operation Warmheart.

”This is an opportunity for Idahoans to give back and support Idaho-assigned military families,” organizer Bruce Wong, a retired Air Force colonel, said Thursday.

Wong and Todd Godfrey, special events manager at Meridian’s High Desert Harley-Davidson, began planning the event last year.

“We were looking for something to give back to the community, and with everything going on everywhere we felt the military would be a great cause,” Godfrey said.

Wong said the military touches many lives — adding that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in Idaho who doesn’t have a friend or loved one in the service — but many people do not fully understand the emotional and financial stress military families often face.

The organizations selected to benefit from the Rolling Thunder event — all 501(c)3 charities — depend entirely on donations and provide support to soldiers and their families in a number of ways, Wong said.

Organizers hope to raise $30,000.

In addition to the motorcycle ride, Treasure Valley Gold’s Gym locations plan to run a simultaneous indoor Rolling Thunder event, selling seats on exercise bikes to raise money for the cause, Wong said.

The U.S. Department of Defense announced in April it will mobilize more than 2,700 citizen-soldiers of the Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team to support ongoing operations in Iraq.

The troops are set to depart Sept. 17 and will return about a year later. About 1,500 of the affected guardsmen are Idahoans, with a heavy Canyon County presence, and the remainder will be from Oregon and Montana.

A number of state and local dignitaries and military officials are scheduled to speak during Sunday’s event.

Event details

Early registration costs $20. Riders can register Sunday from 8 to 10:30 a.m. for $40.

Participants will gather at High Desert Harley-Davidson, 2310 Cinema Drive in Meridian, with speakers starting at about 10:15 a.m.

Plans call for a flyover of World War II-era planes at about 11 a.m., with Staff Sgt. John Carter, an Idaho guardsman who lost an arm and a leg while deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, piloting the lead P-40.

Escorted by law enforcement, riders will travel east on Overland to Eagle Road, go north on Eagle Road and take the eastbound Interstate 84 on-ramp to Mountain Home. Riders will leave the freeway at Exit 90, take the Interstate 84 Business Loop through town and use Idaho 51 and Idaho 167 to access Mountain Home Air Force Base.

Plans include remarks by several speakers, as well as an opportunity for riders to relax and meet members of the 366th Fighter Wing stationed at the base.

The return trip will traverse the same route in reverse, but will exit at the Eisenman Road Interchange, and go to Gowen Field, entering the base just off Orchard Street.

Riders are scheduled to arrive at Gowen Field at about 3:30 p.m. for additional comments, music and lunch. The event is scheduled to conclude at 5 p.m.

How to help

Donations can be made at any Pioneer Federal Credit Union under the Idaho Rolling Thunder account.

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