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Section 8 Ryders fundraising for needy neighbors

WELLS - Getting a "section 8" refers to getting discharged from the U.S. military for being "mentally unfit." Apply the term to a motorcycle club whose riders are clad in leather vests and a logo of a helmeted skull and you may not feel like you're at a fundraisers.

But on Sunday, June 9, these Ryders held one of their basket fundraisers at the Modern Woodsman of America (MWA) event hall in Wells; an event that showcased their caring community of neighbors helping neighbors. That's what the Granville-based Section 8 Ryders do.

"We currently have 22 members," notes the group's President, Janice Paddack Rivers of Granville, NY, "and they are all do-gooders!"

This group raised about $4,100 for Judy and John Doran of Ft. Edwards, NY this past Sunday. Judy was diagnosed last year with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease"). The Dorans need assistance with related costs that include the need for a wheelchair accessible van, an electric wheelchair and construction of a fully accessible addition to a home, including an exterior wheelchair ramp.

The June 9 event drew over 120 people and included a selection of 250 gift baskets and gift certificates.  "It's a whole lot bigger than what we thought it would be," said Robert Dennison, Judy Doran's son-in-law. "It's really moving to see the entire hall full of people. The Section 8 Ryders are an amazing group and they deserve a whole lot of credit."

Rivers founded the Section 8 Ryders with love six years ago as a non-profit, having had over 20 years of experience dedicated to local fundraising efforts. 

"My second love is motorcycles," Rivers noted as people continued to crowd into the MWA hall on the warm, sunny afternoon. Her energy was clearly contagious. "I decided to combine the two and then the group took off like a rocket! Our sole focus is helping individuals who are sick and in need," she notes. All individuals and families who receive assistance must be low-income and many do not have any insurance.

The Ryders maintain a very busy schedule of basket party fundraisers, holding about one or two every month to benefit local individuals who live in the vicinity of Granville, some in New York and some in Vermont. Typically these include drawings for the baskets, raffle and refreshments. Local family members and friends of those in-need, as well as local businesses donate all of the basket items and raffle prizes.

The Ryders also hold other types of fundraisers such as dinners and fun runs. According to Rivers, the basket parties typically raise $2,000 to $4,000, although some have raised significantly more.

Sample basket items included "A Dog's Day" (dog treats, collar and bedding),  "BBQ Time" (bbq sauces, spices), "Boys Havin' Fun" (nerf ball and hoop, Pez dispensers, toy dump truck), "Garden Time" (seed starter, seeds, potting soil) and much, much more. Admission to the event was $5, for which participants received a sheet of tickets for the basket draw, as well as the chance to purchase raffle tickets and a 50-cent buffet.

"This turnout is really amazing," said attendee Joyce Davis of Argyle, NY. "I've been to other basket party fundraisers, but never one with so many baskets!" she added.

 "Growing up I was taught that neighbors and friends should help each other out when they're in-need," said Doran's daughter Rebecca Dennison. "If you've worked hard all of your life and done the same, then you certainly deserve some support in your later years."

Dennison noted that family and friends have volunteered to help care for her mother during the day, as Judy Doran's ALS has progressed to the point where she must use an electric wheelchair, has difficulty speaking, among other problems. Her father, who is a combat veteran, has been forced to continue working in order to cover rapidly increasing medical costs and to buy a used, accessible van.

"So much isn't covered by insurance and it's all so expensive," said Robert Dennison.

Dennison noted that the family is working closely with several organizations, including the New York chapter of the ALS Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, to determine what will be Judy's needs down the road as a result of her ALS. Future plans are to move her parents from their inaccessible, Fort Edwards home into an accessible addition to be built for them on the Dennison's house in Argyle.

The Dennisons both said that many individuals have already signed up to volunteer when work begins on the addition to their house.

The Section 8 Ryders have several other upcoming fundraisers and are booked through the middle of 2014. This is partly because, not unexpectedly, the need in the community is so great. But the ever-altruistic Rivers, adds, "Sometimes we can throw together something to accommodate those who can't wait because of their medical condition."

The next basket party is scheduled for June 15 at the Whitehall, NY Elks Lodge, to benefit a 5-year-old with medical needs.

Rivers is also working to purchase a house and furnish it with furniture and other items that can be donated to people that lose everything in a fire or other disaster.

Rivers notes that the Section 8 Ryders are always open to new members, but they must understand that the purpose of the group is to fundraise. If you are interested in joining, volunteering, or donating a basket or prize for a future event, contact Rivers at (518) 345-5078.