Marine Riders check in with $14,000

Published 5:07 pm Sunday, August 11, 2013

Marine Riders of Michiana met up between Dowagiac and Marcellus Aug. 10 to deliver a $14,000 contribution to Eaton Rapids.

Marine Riders of Michiana met up between Dowagiac and Marcellus Aug. 10 to deliver a $14,000 contribution to Eaton Rapids.

In a display of brotherly love that was the opposite of hair-raising, Marine Riders of Michiana Saturday evening relieved President Brian “Bonehead” Balog of his mohawk and beard.

After remarking a while back they could shave the Elkhart resident for $1,500, $2,000 materialized along with clippers wielded by real barber “Taco” Bell.

The whisker-letting took place at Sam “Bulldog” and Brenda “Pocahontas” Butler’s Volinia tree farm between Dowagiac and Marcellus as bikers assembled to deliver a big $14,000 check to the VFW National Home for Children in Eaton Rapids.

Local sponsors include Judd Lumber, Dowagiac; Jim D’s Body Shop, Dowagiac; Division Tire and Battery, Dowagiac; Dr. Fred L. Mathews, Dowagiac; American Legion Post 51, Buchanan; VFW Post 1855, Dowagiac; VFW Post 2284, Edwardsburg; Beeson Street Bar, Dowagiac; Cass Auto Supply, Cassopolis, B.T.’s Pub, Sister Lakes; and John and Curt’s Brake and Alignment, Dowagiac.

As Brenda Butler likes to say, “These aren’t major corporations. These are our small local friends stepping up and helping the cause. We’re just a group of Marines with passion for military children.”

And there were more of them this summer than last, when 30 converged from Sturgis, Warsaw, Mishawaka, South Bend, New Paris and Osceola to deliver a $12,00 contribution to shatter a $5,000 goal their first year they took over from the Edwardsburg Legion.

Since its founding in 1925, the VFW National Home for Children has grown from an old frame farm house to a sprawling campus with playgrounds, parks areas and multiple buildings, including single-family homes, a community center and gymnasium, child care center, guest lodge, chapel and administrative offices.

The Ladies Auxiliary Nursery, added in 1945, is a full-service, state-licensed child care facility with classrooms for infants, toddlers and preschool/school-age children.

The VFW Ladies Auxiliary Nursery is home to the National Home’s on-site early childhood education program. Children up to 6 years of age receive high-quality care in a safe, nurturing environment.

In the residential program, veterans’ children may live at the National Home their entire childhood through college, while a family member retains guardianship.

It’s a safety net for today’s military during periods of National Guard and Reserve deployments. A veteran with children who is approved for VA vocational rehabilitation may be eligible to live at the National Home and receive supportive services.

Service is an essential part of the growth process at the VFW National Home for Children.

Residents take part in activities for the local community, visiting museums, writing letters and visiting veterans and hospitals to make them mindful of the need to give back through service.”

Marines “always look for somebody who needs help and do everything we can to help them,” Sam Butler said. “It’s not our money, it’s money from businesses. We’re just the leg men to get the money to the children because that’s what it’s all about.”

Except that time a year ago when Red threw the president “under the bus and said, ‘If you would shave your Mohawk and your facial hair, this club will raise $1,500 for the children. So we did, then let it go and forgot about it,” Butler said. “But since there’s a newspaper here…”

They removed Balog’s sunglasses because “we want to see the look on your face.”

The railroad worker received a big “hoorah” for “taking it like a man.”

The chapter started in 2010 with seven Marines and has grown to 35.

“Slick” is a police officer, “Suit,” the treasurer, a businessman.

“Booda (Tracy Marshall) put together a bike event in Warsaw that raised $2,700. All of these guys have been out getting $100 here and $100 there. They’ve all taken this cause and embraced the charity Sam brought to us. We want to get to the point we can sponsor a house” for $450,000, Balog said.