WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — Nearly 150 people gathered early Friday morning outside of the Winchester Rescue Mission to kick off a cross-country rescue ride.
Over the course of 12 days, riding a Harley Davidson Ultra donated by the Grove’s Winchester Harley Davidson, Winchester Rescue Mission director Brandan Thomas and his team are riding their motorcycles to Los Angeles.
“We’re going to be stopping at 14 different Rescue Missions,” Thomas said. “Spending the night at some of the some of those Rescue Missions and taking tours of those missions and finding out what it is that those Rescue Missions across the country are doing to end homelessness.”
Many motorcycle riders came out to support the ride and escort Thomas during the first leg of the ride, including several members of the Warlocks Motorcycle Club.
“Our club was founded by a Vietnam vet, and a lot of the homeless are vets,” said Kevin Hoke, a Warlocks Motorcycle Club member. “They’re not looking for a handout, they’re looking for a hand up and that’s what we need to do, we need to give people a hand up.”
His wife Kim, also a member of the club, agreed.
“It could be any of us,” she said. “You never know, a blink of an eye and you could lose it all. And they need support. They need our help and we’re ready to step in and help where we can.”
A few other special guests joined Thomas on his ride, although not on their own motorcycles.
“We have a crew coming with us to film, potentially, a documentary out of this,” Thomas said.”That we can hopefully show that really highlights what’s happening around homelessness and mental health and those types of things.”
The ride is also a fundraising tool for the mission, one that Thomas says is the largest they’ve ever done.
“It’s one of my core convictions is that one of the root causes of homelessness is mental health issues,” he said. “So one of our goals out of this trip is to raise funds to hopefully be able to hire a full-time staff person here at the rescue mission to deal with the issues of mental health.”
The mission’s staff say their goal is $25,000, but they’re expecting to surpass that by the time Thomas reaches California. As of their departure Friday morning Thomas said the mission had already raised $21,000. To donate, go to https://www.winrescue.org/.