LAUGHLIN — For a group of area firefighters, the desire to save lives and help people on what is often the worst day of their lives doesn’t stop once the immediate emergency is contained.
The Men of Fire Motorcycle Club, Chapter 6 Northwest Arizona, is indulging a passion and enjoying the freedom to do it while helping the same population of men and women who made it all possible — American veterans.
Men of Fire, along with U.S. Military Vets Motorcycle Club, will host a charity poker run at the Tropicana Laughlin on Saturday at 8 a.m. Nevada time.
Being involved with veterans hits close to home for Ryan Granath, president of Chapter 6.
“To a buddy of mine, who’s a veteran, I always say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ and he goes, ‘Thank you for your service,’ ” said Granath. “He always told me, ‘Hey, I protect the exterior, you protect the interior.’ That’s always comforting to me.”
Men of Fire is composed of active and retired firefighters, with chapters in California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Virginia, Illinois, Canada and beyond.
“I’ve been doing poker runs for about five years now,” Granath said. “The money we raise, we utilize the River Fund and they utilize the Veterans Resource Fund to get more veterans off the streets. They set up a separate account for us, because we strictly want the funds to go towards the vets. We don’t want it to combine with any other funds.”
Granath said the U.S. Military Vets Wild West Chapter participating in the poker run is based out of Phoenix.
“We try to support everything we can when it comes to American veterans and our main focus is homeless vets,” said Harold “Bare” Long, Arizona state president. “This is a great cause and it’s a privilege that Men of Fire asked us to help. We’re proud to do anything we can do. The more we do, the more the public sees.”
Both groups will use their connections with other club chapters to make the event a success.
“In addition to our chapter, there are Men of Fire chapters in all of the states and I know a bunch of the guys,” Granath added.
The group expects the event to grow year over year.
“This run means a lot to me,” said Jimmy Smith, a member of Chapter 6. “I love veterans, I have family members who are veterans. It’s also about giving back to the community and helping veterans in the Tri-state, helping them get whatever it is they need.”
In the last five years, the group has raised about $55,000 toward veterans’ causes, Granath said.
Event stops were planned to commemorate the holiday.
“So because it’s a veterans run, we’re utilizing veterans’ stops. We’ll go to American Legion Post 60 in Laughlin, American Legion Post 87 in Bullhead, VFW 10005, AmVets Post 4, VFW Post 404 in Mohave Valley and the VFW in Golden Shores,” Granath said. “We will begin and end at the Tropicana.”
He “guesstimated” participants could number between 80 and 100 or more.
“That’s a tough one to predict, because we never know how many riders will show up,” Granath said. “And there’s no cut off on how many people can participate. I know the Tropicana ordered 240 shirts.”
Their event during the 2018 Laughlin River Run saw 352 riders.
He said the Tropicana has been supportive of their efforts, but the property has a long history of supporting veterans, even before the name change to the Tropicana. For many years, a veterans museum was housed in what is now the Pavilion Theater.
“The Tropicana is a great sponsor for us, and they’re really pro-veterans,” Granath added.
The entry fee for the poker run is $30, which includes a T-shirt, a coin, and a $10 food voucher at the Tropicana. The passenger entry fee is $10 and they receive a $10 food voucher.
Shirts and coins also are available for purchase.
The event starts at 8 a.m., but the whole group isn’t expected to leave together, Granath said.
“We don’t leave as one group — if somebody registers at 8 a.m., they can leave at 8 a.m. If someone registers at 11 a.m., they can leave at 11 a.m. We’ve found the larger the group, the more difficult it can be,” he said.
At the end of the ride, the Tropicana is hosting a barbecue, libations and live music.
It is also an opportunity for those without a bike to help the Men of Fire cause.
“A lot of times, people who haven’t participated in the event or maybe didn’t know about it want to help out, so we sell raffle tickets to anybody who’s there,” Granath said. “We just let them know it’s for the veterans so we get a lot of participation from outside the ride.”
He said there is no set goal, that all the money collected is appreciated.
“It is what it is,” Granath said. “This last April, we donated $10,000 that we raised during the Laughlin River Run. Last November we donated $3,500. It all depends on participation and numbers.”
Helping their cause are Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys and Eagle Motorcycle Rentals in Bullhead City.
“In addition to the Tropicana, Russ Brown and Eagle Motorcycles are probably one of our biggest sponsors,” he said. “Russ Brown provide us with all the art, swag bags, banners, posters and post cards.”