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  • Megann Horstead

Ride for a Paws: Bikers raise funds, awareness for animal shelter


Every rider knows the best way to take to the streets is by motorcycle. So when an opportunity arose to embark on a motorcycle run with a pack of bikers, who all share the same goals in mind to raise funds and bring greater awareness to TLC Animal Shelter, the rest was history.

TLC Animal Shelter hosted its second annual Freedom Ride Sunday, July 9, in Lockport.

It was all part of an effort to raise funds for the not-for-profit organization based in Homer Glen. The event coincided with the animal shelter’s car wash fundraiser, which took place the same weekend.

“We’re hoping to raise a lot money to help because it’s obviously a not-for-profit,” said Tracy Lesmeister, a volunteer for TLC Animal Shelter. “They get no assistance other than private donations. So, I like to do what I can to try and help raise a little money to offset the costs that incur in medicines for the animals.”

The animal shelter racks up a number of different costs in the effort to stay open, Lesmeister said.

“They take transports every week from high-kill shelters to give the animals a second chance to get adopted,” she said. “There’s all the standard utility bills that you would have in normal life and the upkeep of the building. We just had to get a brand new air conditioner because ours went out. You know, it happens. Plus, you have to pay for the gas to go get the animals. Taking them to the vet and back is all money, and then the money for the vet bills and any medicines you know is just ongoing.”

The programs offered at the shelter are very important, said Jenna Marsh, an employee of TLC Animal Shelter.

“We pull animals every Saturday out of transport out of Kentucky,” she said. “All the animals are all set to be euthanized. It doesn’t matter whether they’re old, sick, healthy, moms [or] puppies. They give them about two weeks to be adopted down there and then they have to put them to sleep because the shelters overrun.”

Marsh said it is unfortunate to know the predicament animals sometimes face.

“We get 25 [to] 30 animals every Saturday and they pull up I think about 200 for all the shelters up here [in the southwest suburbs of Chicago,]” she said. “It’s a big deal.”

The Freedom Ride brought in about $5,000 last year, and organizers were hoping to top that figure again this time around. In its inaugural run, the event drew in more than 100 riders and nearly 200 people.

“Everybody loved it last year, so I’m hoping they’ll all come back this year,” Lesmeister said. “They all had a great time. The after party, they loved my band. They’re called Fort Awesome and they’re based out of Lockport.”

This year’s Freedom Ride started in Lockport at Jackie’s Pub and included four stops allowing participants to travel to places, such as Frankfort, Peotone, Manhattan and New Lenox.

“It really raises awareness that the shelter is available, and it really I think spurs a sense of heartwarming attitudes toward the shelter,” Lesmeister said.

The support shown by the many volunteers in the community is formidable, Lesmeister said.

“I could not do this without their assistance,” Lesmeister said. “I started out about eight years or so ago doing different types of events for the shelter and it was all on me. So, it was so difficult, but I enjoyed it. It [has] taken such a weight off my shoulders to have all these amazing friends and volunteers from the shelter come and help.”

Dennis Theriault, of Joliet, said he is glad he decided to participate in the Freedom Ride. As a dog owner, he wanted to show his support for TLC Animal Shelter through the ride and is considering adopting a pet through the organization as well.

“I love dogs more than people,” he said, laughing. “… I have adopted a couple [dogs] out of shelters. In fact, I was just looking last night on their website [and] found one that I liked. I might adopt.”

Theriault attends a lot of motorcycle runs in the area, and said his favorite part is the bikes.

“You hear it all the time, the freedom,” he said. “It’s all about the freedom.”

The festivities concluded with an after party at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9545 in New Lenox. There, participants enjoyed a live band, food and raffles.

#Lockport #HomerGlen #NewLenox

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