AP NEWS

Patriot Tour kicks off Saturday in Beaver Dam: Funds raised support disabled veterans, families

May 14, 2019

The 10th annual Patriot Tour will launch from downtown Beaver Dam at 11 a.m. Saturday, Armed Forces Day.

The opening ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. at the west end of Front Street near Rogers Cinema. Dignitaries will speak and riders will take an oath to the nation and to the cause.

“We will share what we’re trying to accomplish and vow to unite under our flag for the benefit of our disabled veterans,” said Sarah Botham, a Beaver Dam native whose Mount Horeb-based marketing and promotion company, Botham, INK, helps advertise the event. “This is an all-volunteer effort. Any overhead that we encounter is paid by corporate sponsorship. We will also explain the significance of an empty chair, which represents the soldiers who lost their lives and paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend American freedom. At 11 a.m. it’s kickstands up and the riders (and drivers) will be off.”

Botham noted that the event is open to more than just bikers.

“This isn’t just about motorcycles,” she said. “If there’s a car caravan that wants to join in, they’re more than welcome to do so. You don’t have to get on in Beaver Dam. You can join in anywhere you’d like. All are welcome.”

The tour involves one American flag that will embark on a 110-day journey, transported 14,500 miles through all 48 continental states in a city-to-city relay that raises funds to support disabled veterans.

Bill Sherer of Milwaukee founded the event after witnessing the hardships his friends endured after returning home from active duty. The Nation of Patriots and its inaugural Patriot Tour launched in 2009. Botham and her brothers, Wade and Tim Fletcher, who still live in the Beaver Dam area, joined early on. Through their efforts, Beaver Dam became the starting and ending point for the ride.

Nation of Patriots ensures that 100% of funds raised go directly to the veterans it strives to help. The organization works with VA facilities and other veteran organizations to identify the recipients of its funds.

“Almost as rewarding as meeting the families who have been helped by the Nation of Patriots is being able to look a donor in the eye and confidently tell them that 100 percent of their donation will be placed in the hands of a veteran in need,” Sherer said.

The logistical challenges are substantial.

“None of it falls on any one person’s shoulders, not just in Wisconsin but all over the country,” Botham said. “All the volunteers are extraordinary people, and they insure that the flag moves forward without one person consistently being there. This flag is handed off in remote places, in big cities, and there are groups of riders that have to be gathered and events that have to be planned. You have weather to deal with, and all sorts of crazy things can happen as you journey across the country.

“It’s an unbelievable effort and the fact that it makes it all around the country in the time allotted is due entirely to the dedicated people who step up and say ‘Yes, I’m going to do my part.’ Collectively, there are something like 135,000 to 150,000 riders who will have escorted the flag on one piece of the journey or another. It’s a pretty remarkable effort.”

Nearly $1 million has been raised through this grassroots effort since the Nation of Patriots’ inception, Sherer said.

“We’re working to spread the message and blow the doors off of our fundraising goals,” he said. “Our disabled veterans need and deserve all the support we can provide.”

The Patriot Tour will return to Beaver Dam on Sept. 7 with a noon motorcycle parade through the community’s downtown. The parade ends at historic Swan City Park, where a closing ceremony will be held, at which point the flag will be retired. A celebration will follow.

Nation of Patriots is a 501©(3) organization. More information about the Patriot Tour, the Nation of Patriots and donor opportunities can be found at nationofpatriots.org.