Bikes 4 Vets and ‘Speedy Mike’ raise money to help those who served
Mike Jones is the proud owner of a shiny red Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle that is more than 20 years old, but doesn’t have a scratch or a spot of rust on it.
He also is the president of Bikes 4 Vets, a charitable organization that conducted its first fundraiser Saturday on Richland Avenue West in Aiken.
A motorcycle show, raffle and silent auction were held, and food and beverages were available for purchase.
In addition, there was a live auction for a bottle of Crown Royal 13-year-old Blenders’ Mash whisky.
“I’m damn happy,” said Jones, when asked how he thought Bikes 4 Vets’ inaugural event was going. “We’ve got about 100 bikes and 200 people here, and they’re still coming in. At the end of it, I’m going to be emotionally exhausted, but this is something that is really near and dear to me.”
The site of the Bikes 4 Vets fundraiser was the Aiken Discount Auto Sales property. Jones’ automotive upholstery business, Headliners ’N More, also is located there.
Jones, whose nickname is “Speedy Mike,” said he started Bikes 4 Vets because he thinks some organizations that assist military veterans use too much of the money they receive to cover administrative costs.
“I’m going to give back 100 percent to vets because I don’t need to get paid for doing this,” he said. “I’m doing this out of the kindness of my heart.”
Jones especially wants to help Aiken County veterans whose needs aren’t being met by other, more established charities and the government.
“We aren’t going to just hand out money,” Jones said. “If someone needs a refrigerator, we’ll take them to a store and get it for them. If they need an Uber ride, we’ll pay for it.”
Jones is a U.S. Army veteran and knows what tough times are like.
“I was in the 82nd Airborne Division,” he said. “I got medically retired at 15 years because I jumped out of an airplane and got hit by another airplane while I was in the air. I had a broken neck and some other injuries.”
Josh Campbell had his Harley-Davidson Electra Glide on display in the Bikes 4 Vets show.
He said he wanted to participate in the four-hour fundraiser because “I’ve got plenty of family members that are veterans.”
Gene “Grumpy” Pajerski rode his 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Glide to the Bikes 4 Vets fundraiser. It was parked beside a 2014 Honda CTX owned by his son, Edward.
The elder Pajerski used to be in the Army, and he believes bikers banding together is an effective way to help veterans in need and others who are down on their luck.
“Bikers aren’t just from the military,” Pajerski said. “They are from every walk of life. They know what’s going on in the community, and they are in tune with the community. When you’re trying to get these charity events going, the biker community often can get things done a lot of faster than the regular community.”