May 20, 2010
All text and photos by: Jennifer Cowart
LEADING THE PACK: Above, the riders enter the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Exeter, the first stop on the 100 mile run.
The morning of April 25 dawned dark and dreary, but spirits were bright as more than 200 motorcyclists lined up their bikes at Cranston High School West for the PS3 Ron Gill Jr. second annual Ronnie’s Ride Motorcycle Run.
“This year’s ride was even more special because so many people came out in the rain because they believed in this,” said Ron Gill Sr.
More than 500 bikers had registered for the event, which included a 100-mile round-trip ride from Cranston West down to the U.S. Coast Guard Memorial Station in Narragansett and back. Police from Cranston, Scituate, Warwick and Providence, as well as Rhode Island State Police, escorted the riders for the entire run.
PS3 Ron Gill Jr. was killed in the line of duty while stationed in Alaska on March 25, 2007. His immediate family, which includes his mother Rosemary, his father Ron Sr., his brother Jonathan and his wife Ambur, has worked hard to turn their loss into something positive for others.
The PS3 Ronald A. Gill Jr. Memorial Scholarship Foundation runs several events a year to raise money for scholarships. Since their son’s death, the Gill family has given out $65,000 to Cranston high school seniors. This year the foundation is giving out more than in any other year.
Ron Gill Sr. and Ronnie's daughter Gracie get ready for the second annual Motorcycle Run to begin.
The event began with a prayer as Ron, Rosemary, Ambur and Ronnie’s daughter Gracie placed red and black beads on Coast Guard and Federal Law Enforcement flags. The beads are a sign of safe travels and accompanied the riders. At the end of the ride, the flags are folded and saved for the following year.
Ron praised the police, who escorted the riders during treacherous conditions.
“The guys riding those bikes never had to put their feet down, not even once. The police were at every intersection,” he said.
This year’s riders included the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA), the Patriot Guard Riders, the Warrior Brotherhood and the Christian Motorcycle Association.
START YOUR ENGINES: Despite the weather, more than 200 motorcycles line the streets at Cranston High School West waiting for the ride to begin.
Among the participants was 96-year-old Frank Pine, who rode from Newport to Cranston West and is the oldest licensed motorcyclist in America.
Additionally, there were over 80 vendors who sponsored the event, donating money, supplies and raffle items.
Following the motorcycle run, a dinner was held at West Valley Inn in West Warwick. Approximately 500 people were in attendance, including Congressman James Langevin, members of the police departments and Mayor Allan Fung.
As the guests ate their meals and entered for the chance to win some of the donated raffle prizes, an emotional Ron had many people to thank.
“This doesn’t get any easier, I’ll tell you that,” Gill said through tears. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. We can’t tell you how much it means to us.”
Gill emphasized how much his son’s foundation means to him.
It is why I take a breath in the morning. It is what drives me because I know that even if we give $500 for books or $1,000, it makes a difference,” he said.
He thanked all of the veterans, past and present, that supported the family and the foundation. He also recognized the Board of Directors and Carlos Lopez, the director of constituent affairs for Mayor Fung.
“To all the members of our foundation, their tireless efforts are the reason we’re able to give out tens of thousands of dollars to kids in Cranston schools who never, ever have to repay that debt,” Ron said.
Both Mayor Fung and Congressman Langevin had a chance to speak during the dinner.
WITH THANKS: Mayor Allan Fung speaks at the foundation's dinner while Ron Gill Sr. and Rosemary Gill look on.
“On behalf of the City of Cranston, we are proud to be here,” said Mayor Fung. “Not just one, but many men and women from our police force are here, too.”
Langevin touched upon the sacrifices of the families in the room.
“I’m here to offer support to the families of the men and women who have given their lives. There are many Gold Star Families in this audience,” he said. “You don’t grieve alone, and we will never forget.”
Looking back at the events they’ve hosted, the Gill family talked about the significance of the ladybug, which has become a symbol of Ronnie’s presence and a recurring sight over the past few years. The Second Annual Ronnie’s Ride on April 25 was no different.
Despite the pouring rain and strong winds, when the riders and the family arrived in Point Judith to pay tribute to Ronnie at the Coast Guard memorial site there, they saw a lone ladybug on Ronnie’s memorial bench.
For more information on the PS3 Ron Gill Jr. Memorial Foundation, its scholarship endeavors and its upcoming events, including the upcoming golf tournament in July, visit www.rongilljr.org.