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Wis. motorcycle ride raises money for wounded veterans, their families

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

Published: Sunday, May 25, 2014 --- 3:50 p.m.

Sunday's 75-mile motorcycle ride from Madison to Milwaukee and back will help bring the first Fisher House to Wisconsin. It's a place like the Ronald McDonald House, except it serves wounded veterans and their families.

For seven years, bikers have taken to two wheels to support construction of a Fisher House in Milwaukee.

"What's nice about this, is the people from Madison, from Eau Claire, Lacrosse, Green Bay, outside of the 50-mile radius in Milwaukee, those are the people that are actually going to benefit from this," said ride organizer Bill Michaels.

The 106.7 The Zone radio personality says the annual ride has helped raise $3 million of the $6 million needed for the facility.

This is the first time Michaels is taking the event to Madison, in part to spread the word about how a Fisher House can make a difference.

"I had a son, and he lived at the Ronald McDonald house for awhile before he passed away. I know what it's like to have family members around you, the comfort that it is. My son received that when he was six years old, his mom and his dad, his aunts and his uncles and everybody around him living in the house," Michaels said. "And I can't imagine what it's like to go to Afghanistan or Iraq and come back with some spinal paralysis or you're going through rehab or getting a prosthetic and the future of your life is dramatically changed, not to have loved ones around you."

Around 9,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are current patients at the Milwaukee VA. Many of them must stay for several months after sustaining serious injuries from roadside bombs.

"Veterans are traveling from 22 states to the Milwaukee Spinal Cord Injury Treatment Center because of the level of care and treatment," said Dan Buttery, the president of the Fisher House Wis. board of directors.

That means veterans' loved ones either aren't able to be with them while they recover, or they have to spend thousands of dollars on hotels and transportation. A Fisher House would allow family and friends to live within walking distance of the VA for free.

"It's a direct support for giving back to the troops and honoring those who've fallen on Memorial Day," Buttery said.

There are 62 Fisher Houses around the country. Groundbreaking for the Milwaukee one is set for June 3. It's expected to officially open next summer.

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