“Ride with us” … for Charity
5th Annual Mud ‘N Jams ATV/Motorcycle Ride and Poker Run is this Saturday
TINA L. SCOTT
Merrill Area Community Rides (MACR) will be hosting it’s 5th Annual Mud ‘N Jams ATV/Motorcycle Ride and Poker Run Fundraiser this Saturday June 19, at the Gleason Bowling Center. “This year, we are raising funds in support of the MAC Home, Merrill Community Homeless Center,” said Jeremy Ratliff, one of the founding members of MACR. “We chose the MAC Home through the application process we have every October. Theresa Anthoney, the Executive Director of the MAC Home, reached out and submitted an application and, like everyone else, they were hit hard by COVID. This is an organization that does tremendous good in our community, and we felt it was a great way to give back.”
“The ride starts at 11:00 a.m., people can bring their own vehicles [to ride]. If they want to, they can go on horseback, ride their bike, whatever they want to do,” he said. While the event is billed as an ATV/Motorcycle Ride, Ratliff said people can ride whatever they want and should just come out and have fun and raise money for a great cause.
“There will be six stops in the Harrison Hills area, all within the Harrison Hills ATV system, including stops in Lincoln, Langlade, and Oneida Counties,” Ratliff said. “Gleason Bowling Center, The Boars Nest Bar, Fisher’s Bar in Parish, Dereks Town ‘N Country on the Oneida/Lincoln County Line, Nutzee’s Bar and Restaurant in Harrison, and the Winding Trail Bar and Grill f/k/a Ditchrunners are all stops on the Poker Run … The ride departs at 11:00 a.m.”
After the ride and the poker run, “there will be a drawing Saturday evening, live music from 6:00-10:00 p.m. at Gleason Bowling Center by the Dead Fretz, a rock band out of Wausau, and door prizes and more throughout the evening.”
“The ATV sport has really exploded over the last two years, and this has really become a family sport,” Ratliff said. When they first started Mud ‘N Jams each Father’s Day weekend in June, they weren’t sure how that would go over. They learned it quickly became a great family-oriented activity for the weekend. “Entire families come out and join us for this event,” Ratliff said. “Fathers and their kids come out and do it together. It’s become an attractive thing to do with your dad on Father’s Day weekend and not a deterrent, as originally feared.”
Ratliff is quick to point out that the event’s sponsors are also a huge part of what makes it a successful fundraiser, and those sponsors recognize a good cause. “Merrill Foto News/MMC has always been a big proponent of the fight against homelessness, so this year they’ve become a first time sponsor of the event,” Ratliff said. “They join our other sponsors this year: 365 Power Sports (owner Jim Bergh), Merrill Tool and Water Jet (owner Lee Opsahl), Erv’s Sales & Service in Tomahawk, and the CHR Hansen plant in Wausau [based out of Milwaukee].”
“We are very appreciative of our sponsors this year; this is the most sponsors we’ve ever had,” he said. “They are the big core of this, the businesses that rally behind us because they are more than happy to support a good cause.” And not just the big event sponsors, he noted, but all of the businesses that donate something to the drawings and reach out to help support the event in some way.
“Ernie Stender and Gary Schwartz of the AmericInn are one such example,” Ratliff said. “They’ve helped us since the very beginning. And the Schwartzs also support us with donations for events from the Mobile Station and Arby’s … this really is a huge shoutout to all our loyal local businesses. Even during COVID, even though businesses were really hit hard, our local businesses didn’t stop donating, and we couldn’t do it without them. The event just gets bigger every year.”
MACR started in 2016 when a group of friends decided to do something positive for the community and create a fundraiser centered around some of the things they loved most … riding. Dennis Fick was one of the founding members and is credited for being the driving force behind the first fundraiser, a Snowmobile Ride for Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) held in January 2017.
Ratliff, who has been involved with MACR from the beginning, said of that very first event: “Even though we had no idea what we were doing, we raised $800. People just heard about it and wanted to support a good cause.” Both the sponsors who generously supported the event, and the people who came out to ride, raise money, and have a good time at that first Snowmobile Ride are really the reason the group decided to get organized and do even more.
Since 2016, they settled on the name Merrill Area Community Ride (MACR), organized with a five-member Board of Directors, created a formal application process for local causes in dire need of support, and gradually increased the number of annual events to three each year. They now hold the Sleds ‘N Jams Snowmobile Ride the third weekend every January, the Mud ‘N Jams ATV/Motorcycle Ride every third weekend in June, and Roscoe’s Ride in September. The common theme is riding. That’s why they also adopted a simple slogan: “Ride with us.”
“We started out just a local group of friends trying to give back, to help out in our community, and now we have regular donors and every year more businesses step forward. We started out contacting businesses and now they reach out and offer to help us,” Ratliff said.
“We support families, individuals, and local nonprofit organizations in need. We are coming up on $20,000 supported, and so far our fundraisers have helped a total of 15 individuals and organizations. Every dollar we raise goes to the recipients.”
MACR has been recognized as a charitable non-stock corporation by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, and now the next step is to get their 501(c)3 status. They are “Always looking for volunteers to come out and help at events, join the Board to help plan events, and just get involved,” Ratliff said. The current members “all have full time jobs and families, but we attend monthly meetings and we make these events happen … this is our labor of love, our baby, something we’ve built and nursed from the ground up … it’s strictly volunteer run, and we’re always looking for more volunteers,” he added.
The MAC Home provides safe and secure shelter/housing and helps meet basic needs for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness for a wide variety of reasons. And they do so in an atmosphere of encouragement, respect, dignity, and hope, while also while nurturing and promoting self-sufficiency and independent living. They partner with other local resource agencies in an effort to help individuals and families in a multitude of ways, from resource information on agencies to helping with a job search to finding and obtaining affordable housing. Merrill Community Homeless Center Inc. also promotes public awareness of homelessness by partnering with local resource agencies and educating the community.