A slight traffic delay Saturday morning will support a good cause as a motorcycle rally raising money to assist an injured Marine passes through Denton County.
Michael Mooney, a board member with the nonprofit Spirit of a Hero organization, said that each year the all-volunteer board selects a North Texas veteran who served in Iraq or Afghanistan and was critically wounded to receive funds raised through the motorcycle rally. This year’s recipient is Marine Staff Sgt. Marcus Burleson of Weatherford.
The third annual fundraiser — and the organization’s largest — is scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday in Fort Worth at Ricky Bobby Sports Saloon & Restaurant on Northeast Loop 820, before traveling north on Interstate 35W to Denton, then south on Interstate 35E to Strokers Dallas, where many activities, including live music and raffles, will be held. The featured speaker will be Jeff Kyle, a veteran and brother of Chris Kyle, who wrote the autobiography American Sniper and was killed while trying to help a veteran.
Burleson worked in bomb disposal and was attempting to defuse a device when it detonated, Mooney said. He lost both arms and an eye and suffered severe burns, but he continues to volunteer to help those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, rally organizers said.
“So far we have helped remodel his home with the help of Home Depot to make it more accessible to him, and money raised will continue assisting him and his family as needed,” Mooney said. “We look each year for a veteran with the true spirit of a hero, and when asked why he still volunteers, he told us he needs to give back. ... That’s the true spirit we are looking for right there.”
Mooney said he expects the riders to reach Denton between 11:30 a.m. and noon.
Shortly before 11:30 a.m., all southbound lanes on I-35E will be closed temporarily as the procession passes through town, according to Officer Ryan Grelle, a spokesman for the Denton Police Department.
Agencies from Lewisville also will be taking part. The Lewisville Fire Department will hang an American flag from the Valley Ridge Boulevard overpass.
Lewisville police Capt. Jay Powell said Lewisville officers will pick up the procession from Denton. Officials there expect to have at least one lane open for other traffic while the more than 1,000 bikers expected travel though the city.
“There may be a little congestion and might close down to a lane at Valley Ridge,” Powell said.
Residents are encouraged to come out and find a safe spot to show their support for Burleson, who will be leading the way in an open-roof, Marine-themed Hummer as a Bell UH-1 “Huey” helicopter flies overhead, according to Mooney, a veteran and longtime Denton resident.
Powell said motorists who pull over should make sure they are not blocking traffic.
“We are doing our part to make sure this is a safe and enjoyable event,” he said.
Registration will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Ricky Bobby, and the cost is $25 per rider and $10 per passenger. All proceeds will go to Spirit of a Hero. The ride is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.
Riders can register in advance at www.spiritofahero.org.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.