The Waterville Elks Riders Club are hosting the Spring Blessing of the Bikes on Saturday in Vassalboro. Seen from left are club members Dave Anderson, Val Labrie, Stacy Ritchey, Joe Ritchey, Steve Knowlten, Mike Paquette, Randy Gerry, Cheryl Richards, Rodney Richards, Pete Russell, Sandie Anderson and Jackie Reny. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

VASSALBORO — Anyone who loves motorcycles, antique vehicles and donating to local charities is likely to find camaraderie at the Spring Blessing of the Bikes to be held Saturday on Main Street.

Hosted by the Waterville Elks Riders, the event starts at 11 a.m. at the home of Elks members Peter and Jackie Reny at 1120 Main St. It will include a free meal, although donations are accepted, to include pulled pork and chicken sliders, baked beans, chili, corn bread, coleslaw and water. A 50-50 drawing and an open house for people to view the Renys’ multiple antique vehicles also are on tap.

Peter Reny is a 59-year member of the Elks Lodge and is a trustee for the lodge. Jackie Reny is an Elks Rider and 10-year lodge member.

“The public is welcome,” said Joe Ritchey, president of the Elks Riders, a group formed three years ago as part of the Waterville Elks Lodge 905. The group was the first Elks Riders chapter formed in Maine.

Ritchey, a former exalted ruler of Waterville Elks Lodge, said the Central Maine Jeeps Association has been invited to Saturday’s event, which represents the Waterville Elks Riders’ first Blessing of the Bikes. Lucie Boucher, an ordained chaplain, plans to bless the Jeeps as well.

“It’s such an honor to be an Elks Rider and host the blessing of the bikes,” Jackie Reny said.


The Waterville Elks Lodge 905 raises money year-round for charities, but the Waterville Elks Riders does separate fundraising events and has garnered thousands of dollars for organizations such as the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, Winslow Community Cupboard, Honor Flight Maine, VA Togus Volunteer Services, Maine Children’s Cancer Program’s Owie Box effort, which offers children a toy when they emerge from treatments, United Bikers of Maine Toy Run, Resolve Life Center in Waterville, St. John’s Food Pantry in Winslow, and DEW Haven Maine Zoo & Rescue in Mount Vernon.

“We do this because we see the needs in the community and all of us believe in the same thing,” Ritchey said. “We look for charities that do not have administrative fees involved because we know of some charities that use 30% and over 40% administrative costs.”

He cited Honor Flight, which takes Maine Veterans to Washington, D.C, as a good example of a charity that does things right.

“Everybody there is volunteer,” Ritchey said. “There’s no money used out of donations to supplement anything administrative-wise. Everything goes to getting veterans and those planes down to D.C.”

Other fundraising events the Riders host include rides for suicide prevention and live band nights with dances during winter months.

“We’re always open-minded about suggestions for other charities that need something,” Ritchie said. “If we know about them, we’d consider them.”


Elks Riders treasurer Rodney Richards, who was president of the group for its first two years, was instrumental in getting the group started, Ritchey said. Mike Paquette, also an Elks Rider, is exalted ruler of the Elks Lodge 905.

The Elks Riders also will be taking part this month in the Summit Project on Memorial Weekend. The project honors veterans who have died since 9/11 while serving in the military or as a result of illness, vehicle accidents or other events.

On May 25, the Saturday before Memorial Day, the Elks Riders will travel to Portland with 20 special stones chosen by victims’ families to honor their loved ones and, escorted by state police, will travel to Millinocket and the Baxter State Park Welcome Center with others who will be carrying another 66 stones.

There, the stones will be turned over to Boys Scouts who will climb Mount Katahdin and, once at the top, will recite each veteran’s story, according to Ritchey. The stones will then be taken back to Portland to be part of a traveling display of stones.

“Right now, we have a display case at the lodge with the 20 stones,” Ritchie said. “Twenty riders will take those 20 to Portland.”

The local Elks Lodge every Friday evening has a meal at its home base on Industrial Road, where a member reads a biography of each veteran whose stone will be part of the project. Ritchie said the veterans’ family members found the stones in various places, such as in a flower garden, on a hike or in a favorite spot. The veterans’ names are etched into the stones, he said.

The Summit Project, a nationwide living memorial effort, was founded in 2013. As the stones are carried on treks throughout Maine, the U.S. and world, people in communities learn about their stories.

The Elks Riders and Jeeps Association are planning a joint fundraising event for charities Sept. 7 in the parking lot of Faith Church on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Waterville, Ritchey said.

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