About 150 riders from across the state attended the 4th Annual American Legion Riders State Rally Saturday at Jack D. Levy Post 573 in Harker Heights.

This is the first time the event was hosted in Central Texas, said Sonja Skinner, outgoing post commander.

“This is a rally that’s about bringing American Legion riders from all over Texas together in one location to talk about problems they may be having or great things their riders are doing,” she said. “All the money that we are collecting, the proceeds are going to Operation Once in a Lifetime and Brother’s Keeper, which helps with homeless children in the Killeen Independent School District.”

Skinner said the funds benefit military families and homeless children in Bell County.

“We are an organization that helps homeless high school kids … get on a road to success and the right track to graduation,” said Greg Hoops, president of My Brother’s Keeper and American Legion member. “Once I found out they would fund the organization I was shocked at first, but the more we put our name out then more people are getting involved.”

Hoops said the organization recently helped about 55 students from Shoemaker High School.

“A lot of the community doesn’t know that there is a high number of homeless school kids in the Killeen district, and it seems like it’s getting bigger and bigger,” he said. “It’s a big problem that often gets sidetracked because of other situations.”

Riders took part in a silent auction, a dunking booth and a makeshift jail, where riders paid to have other members locked up for 30 minutes.

“It’s fun and a good chance to blow off some steam while we raise money,” said Michael Swinney, president of American Legion Riders Post 223 in Killeen. “It is very well-run and the people are getting out to do some rides in the area to see what we got in Central Texas.”

Swinney said riders were also sent out on a scavenger hunt.

“It takes them on about an 80-mile loop around the area to find different stuff and information,” he said. “It’s a good chance for the American Legion riders who do a lot of great things throughout the state to come together and get to know each other. And somewhere down the line we will be able to help each other.”

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