BILLINGS — People stepped up with a giving spirit at three different events benefiting nonprofits around the Billings area on Sunday.
For members of the R.O.A.D R.A.S.H RC motorcycle club started their morning off with the wind in their hair, riding in the group's 9th Annual Fun Run. Club members and other riders buy into a five card poker hand and gaining a card from each stop on the route from Billings to Columbus, Roscoe, Joliet and Laurel.
“We’re here to support all of our veterans. This is what we do on a daily basis. We ride for our veterans. This is a run that we put on ourselves to help continue the support," said Bill "Cowboy" Curtis, a six-year member of R.O.A.D. R.A.S.H. RC.
The ride raised money for the local nonprofit, Montana Veterans Meat Locker. With the help of local hunters and producers, vets meat locker staff help donate food to veterans and their families across the state.
Curtis said the cause is close to his heart.
“My whole family has been veterans. I'm not personally a veteran myself and this is how I support my veterans now. My father, my brother, my grandparents were all veterans. A lot of my good, close friends are veterans. I had a good cousin of mine die over in Iraq. This is just my passion to help support veterans," Curtis said.
The R.O.A.D R.A.S.H club was established in Billings in 2012, and puts on several charity events and rides throughout the year. To learn more about the club, visit its Facebook page by clicking here.
Over on the Rocky Mountain College campus, people gathered for the Walk to End Alzheimer's. This is the event's first year back after a year's strictly virtual walk last year.
The event raises money for the Alzheimer's Association, a nationwide nonprofit with a goal to fund research, care, and advocacy for people with Alzheimer's, dementia and their families.
To still be COVID-19 conscious, people were encouraged to attend the open house at Rocky, then walk wherever they feel comfortable. The Billings walk had about 66 teams and more than 200 participants.
“We’re just excited that people wanted to come out. Wanted to continue to support the cause, even in this kind of wonderful weather that we’re having. We’re celebrating that as well. It’s just been a great day," said Denise Smith, executive director for the Montana chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
Teams walked with different colored flower pinwheels. Each color represented a team who had either a person with Alzheimer's, a team walking in memory of someone who passed away, or a team offering their support.
But there's only one white pinwheel at every Walk to End Alzheimers that carries heavy symbolism, Smith said.
"We always have the white flower and the white flower is a special flower. There's only one flower at each walk and it represents the hope that we have to finding that cure. So the first time a white flower will get planted is when we have that cure," Smith said.
The Billings walking teams blew the doors off the fundraising goal of $155,000. With the help of a team called, Tom's Turkeys, the Billings walk raised $232,500 for the Alzheimer's Association.
“They are one of the top donors nationwide. It’s pretty phenomenal. They are continuing to work with us into next year and the following years. They’re not giving up," Smith said.
To read more about the local team, visit another MTN News story by clicking here.
Across town on the campus of Will James Middle School another group gathered to participate in the Yellowstone Valley Out of the Darkness Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“I’m very happy that we have all come out of the darkness. Being willing to talk about it, raise money for it, come out and walk and have all these wonderful things donated. Because for a long time, that’s not how it was for suicide," said Joan Nye, co-chair of the Yellowstone Valley walk.
Walking teams raised a total of $92,500 this year, just shy of the group's $115,000 goal. Nye said the walk was well-attended this year and was confident they would make their goal after receiving donations at the event.
The money raised will go to help fund education, research and other advocasy and support programs for people who've lost someone to suicide or someone who struggles with their mental health.
Donations are accepted through the end of the year. Click here for details.
The walk has taken place in Billings since 2004 and Nye has had a hand in organizing it every year. She said the walk has helped reduce the stigma surrounding suicide in the community. In the early years, the walk was more attended by people who have lost friends or family to suicide. Now its grown to include others currently experiencing the same feelings that have led others to suicide, Nye said.
“Traditionally, the Out of the Darkness Walks were primarailly involving survivors of suicide loss, which it still does, but it’s also people who are alive and experiencing the same things that led to the suicide of others. It has broadened the awareness and programs very, very much," Nye said.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention staff can hold free suicide awareness trainings at various locations across the state. There's also a support group in Billings that people can take advantage of. To learn more, click here.