10th Annual Goin’ to the Dogs Motorcycle Ride Returns September 21 Benefitting the Johnson County Animal Shelter
Ten years ago, Tom Bland’s good friends, Mike and Cindy Woods, tragically lost their teenage daughter, Sara, in a car accident.
“I had known Sara ever since she was a baby,” Bland says. “She had a love for animals and would always bring home strays to her parents who would find forever homes for them.”
After the accident, Bland wanted to do something to honor Sara’s memory so he thought it would be great to raise money for the Johnson County Animal Shelter — specifically a fund that was earmarked to go towards the adoption of furry friends. “Sara’s Fund” goes toward spaying and neutering dogs and cats as well as paying for all of their shots. Bland rallied his group of motorcycle friends, located all over Johnson County. The “Charity Riders,” as they call themselves, come together several times a year to organize motorcycle rides for various causes.
In the last decade, Bland has spearheaded rides that have raised more than $400,000 for various organizations. Following Sara’s passing, Bland arranged an annual ride named “Goin’ to the Dogs” where riders pay $20 per bike and $10 per passenger. In the past 10 years, they’ve raised more than $60,000.
“In doing this, it took the Johnson County Animal Shelter to the top in the nation on animal adoptions,” Bland says. In addition to covering spaying and neutering costs, these funds are used to purchase medical supplies and provide veterinary care to injured or sick animals.
“It’s great because if, say, a dog or cat gets hit by a car and is seriously injured, if the owner can’t afford treatment, rather than putting the animal down, directors take money out of Sara’s Fund to treat it,” says Bland who notes that since they started the fund, no animals have been euthanized at the shelter.
The ride, which typically attracts between 150-250 riders, originally took place in July, but the weather was too scorching hot so they moved it to September. This year’s ride will be on Saturday, September 21—rain or shine.
“I remember when we did this ride on a burning hot day in 2012. It was 105 degrees, like riding through an oven,” Bland says. “Another year it was pouring down rain, but we kept going.”
Breakfast is served at 8 a.m. Registration opens at 10 a.m. at Whit’s Inn in Whiteland. The ride begins at noon and will go through Brown County and back up, concluding at Nailers Brewery around 4 p.m. Riders can then enjoy Brewfest for live music, refreshing beverages, tasty food, raffles and drawings. Anyone participating or attending the event qualifies to adopt a pet from the Johnson County Shelter for half of the standard adoption fee.
Bland has also organized fundraising rides for other organizations that are near and dear to his heart. For instance, he helped raise money for Proctor Park in New Whiteland, a park designed to honor those individuals who have protected the community and nation through their service in armed service, law enforcement, fire protection and emergency services.
“There was a gold star recipient and New Whiteland resident named Joey Proctor who was killed in Iraq. He died saving 300 peoples’ lives,” Bland says. “The town donated land to build a military park in honor of the fallen heroes.”
The National Guard got involved. The Boy Scouts got involved. And so did the Charity Riders. The first year they dedicated the park with a memorial to honor all the fallen heroes we have lost since 9/11. The next year, Bland organized a ride dedicated to the Vietnam vets. Last year, they dedicated a wall to World War II veterans in Indianapolis. Next, they’re getting ready to dedicate a Korean memorial.
“I’m very proud to see such wonderful results from these rides,” Bland says. “I love riding motorcycles with my friends for a good cause.”
Bland’s daughter, Tiffany Woods, couldn’t be prouder of her father’s philanthropic spirit.
“It’s the most interesting thing to see a big group of biker men who are actually guys with enormous hearts and a passion for giving back to the community,” she says.
To make a donation to Sara’s Fund, make checks payable to MSSC and Sara’s Fund in the memo and mail to Johnson County Animal Control, c/o Michael Delp, 2160 Graham Rd., Franklin, IN 46131.