Rebuilding Motorcycles for Veterans at No Cost – You Can Help
Clint Lawrence, founder of Motorcycle Shippers. Helping give riders more freedom to enjoy the bikes they love. [email protected]
Want to Give Back? Donate Your Motorcycle to a Veteran
Combat Bikesaver, a Veteran nonprofit organization can use our help.
I learned about this organization when a client wanted to donate their bike to Combat Bikesaver but needed help getting it there. I fell in love with the cause and have never felt a stronger desire to help out a charity. I contacted them directly and we were able to learn so much more, so I wanted to share this story that really moved me.
Four years ago, Kenneth Eakins, Jr., was at a low point. He had worked ever since he was 16, when he detasseled corn and baled hay out in the Indiana cornfields. But now, his disability was keeping him from working as he had always done. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression—invisible wounds from his service with the 101st Airborne Division during Desert Storm—were weighing on him as Labor Day rolled around. He decided to attend his town’s parade, hoping to get his mind off his troubles. What he found was lifelong camaraderie.
While at the parade, Kenneth met Jason Zaideman, a U.S. Army Engineer Veteran and the founder of Operation Combat Bikesaver (OCB): a nonprofit that uses “hot rod therapy” to help Veterans suffering from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and depression. Kenneth learned about the group’s program, which trains Veterans in motorcycle fabrication, restoration and customization at no cost. He connected with other Veterans who had rebuilt old motorcycles—and rebuilt themselves at the same time. A Veteran and rider, Kenneth decided to start volunteering with OCB then and there.
At the time, OCB was moving out of Jason’s shed and into its first facility. Kenneth’s first job was to help construct the new OCB workshop. But when his 1980 Harley FLH started having brake issues, he decided to take the next step: participating in the OCB program. He tore down his Harley and customized it from end to end, repainting the motor black and using desert sand cart paint for the tins. Along the way, Kenneth began experiencing the benefits of the therapeutic motorcycle workshop: camaraderie, focus and a new sense of purpose.
“When I’m in the workshop, my mind gets clear and I zone in on one thing: building the motorcycle,” he said. “I have a family here that knows what I’m going through. When we all get together, we’ve all been there, done that and can help each other out.”
Four years later, he’s still hooked on “hot rod therapy.” He orders parts for OCB builds, receives shipments during the week, and serves as a mentor for fellow Veterans around the workshop. And like so many who complete the program, he shares his skills with other heroes ready to rebuild motorcycles and themselves.
Cutting loose and building cool bikes
When Kenneth started volunteering with OCB, he had a background in welding and had already taught himself how to restore his Harley’s motor. He’s also a longtime rider like his father, who rode a 1994 Goldwing that Kenneth still owns today. But for most Veterans, the workshop is a chance to learn motorcycle mechanics from the ground up. There’s no experience, and no motorcycle, required. If Veterans don’t own a motorcycle, they can choose a donated bike to rebuild in whatever style they choose. Every step of the way, they receive the equipment, training, safe environment and family atmosphere they need to customize their motorcycle. Once Veterans finish their bike, they can take it with them or donate it back to the program.
After starting in a little shed in Cedar Lake, Indiana, OCB has now expanded to three locations: Alabama, California and its Indiana headquarters. But the nonprofit hasn’t lost its sense of camaraderie and community. Jason still does custom motorcycle paint jobs onsite at its Indiana workshop. Group rides offer Veterans a chance to take their customized bikes out on the open road. And every Sunday, dozens of Veterans come by to sit, talk and work on their motorcycles.
Some Veterans have used the skills learned at OCB to start careers in welding, and one even attended the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Florida. But whether or not Veterans choose to take their skills further, they leave the program with camaraderie and a creative project that breathes new life into a once damaged motorcycle.
How You Can Support Operation Combat Bikesaver
Between 11% and 20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans have PTSD, while about 12% of Gulf War Veterans suffer from the condition. Nearly 30% of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. Suicide rates are about 1.5 times higher among Veterans than non-Veterans, a figure that is on the rise. Researchers have found that riding a motorcycle is good therapy for Veterans with PTSD because it reduces stressors—an effect that you can also experience working on creative projects like the bike builds at OCB.
Giving Tuesday might be one day per year, but you can give back to our Veterans any time by supporting OCB. A 501(C)(3) nonprofit, OCB accepts monetary donations (tax deductible for you), but it also needs used motorcycles. Any make and model will do. If the motorcycle you donate can be repaired, it will be matched with a Veteran ready for the challenge. If it’s beyond repair, OCB will tear down the bike and use the parts for its program. Either way, your old motorcycle will get new life as a therapeutic project for our nation’s heroes (and a gateway to the mind-clearing power of riding a motorcycle.)
A few years ago, a rider rode all the way from Florida to Indiana to donate his bike to OCB. But with Motorcycle Shippers, you don’t have to make a cross-country trek to donate your ride. If you’re interested in donating a used motorcycle to OCB, contact our team. We’ll help you identify the closest OCB delivery location (we have over 44 shipping terminals across the US to help you out) and coordinate the entire transport from start to finish.
I’m hoping that our Rider Insider fans can help support their efforts. Every time you donate a bike, we want to do our part to donate along with you. Contact us about very special shipping rates for OCB donations.