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Motorcycle run, car show benefit local veterans

Jim Joyce, of Patchogue, cleans his 1955 Ford

Jim Joyce, of Patchogue, cleans his 1955 Ford pickup truck during the 6th Annual Kick Stands Up Motorcycle Poker Run and Car Show in Farmingville on July 22, 2018. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Motorcycle and car enthusiasts Sunday converged on Farmingville for the sixth annual Kick Stand Up Motorcycle Poker Run and Car Show.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Suffolk County United Veterans Project,  which provides housing and support for veterans.

The organization helps to “find and engage veterans who are struggling, either with permanent housing, with mental health issues, with income/economic issues, food, whatever it is that they need,” said Michael Stoltz, CEO of the Ronkonkoma-based Association for Mental Health and Wellness, a nonprofit that oversees Suffolk County United Veterans.

There are approximately 150,000 veterans on Long Island — 90,000 of whom live in Suffolk County, according to Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency officials.

The event at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center Amphitheater at Bald Hill featured food vendors, a rock climbing wall, music and information tables on services for veterans.

For Margie Miller, 51, of East Islip, it was a chance to tell her son’s story, and help others like him.

Miller’s son, Marine Corps Cpl. Keith A. Miller, loved Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He died in 2015 at the age of 22 by suicide.

Miller stood by a red motorcycle, decorated with the names of veterans who took their own lives, and the numbers "22+1". Twenty-two veterans and one active duty service member die by suicide each day, said Miller, citing 2012 statistics from the Department of Veterans Affairs Mental Health Services Suicide Prevention Program. She, along with the family members of other veterans who died, take the motorcycle across the country to raise awareness as part of Project Miller.

“It’s a way to honor him and bring some comfort to the families,” she said. “If you say their names, they still live.”  

Approximately 100 motorcyclists participated in the poker ride, collecting cards from various vendors in hopes of having the winning poker hand when they returned.

“It’s a great cause,” said Kevin Driscoll, 49, of Levittown, and president of Teamster Horsemen Motorcycle Association Chapter 16. Driscoll and about a dozen association members rode for the event, and the group sponsored a stop on the ride.

More than 75 people showed their custom and classic cars, including Tom Friday, 73, of Central Islip, who proudly displayed his Dodge Charger SE.

Friday, a U.S. Army veteran, bought the vehicle in 1973 and later restored it. It was the car that he and his wife rode away in after getting married, and the vehicle in which he brought his daughter home from the hospital.

Friday said he enjoyed meeting other owners and checking out their cars, adding,“You always see something different.”


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