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Fallen Firefighter Survivors Foundation Ride

By Larry “Sack” Sackadorf

World’s Largest Poker Run

Red Knights International MC attains Guinness World Record

Winter Haven, Fla.–Ocean City, Md. (and 20 other U.S. locations), April 18—Members of the Red Knights International Motorcycle Club achieved a feat never before attempted—the world’s largest poker run. A benefit ride to support the Fallen Firefighter Survivors Foundation (FFSF) took place on April 18, with runs starting simultaneously in 12 states from Florida to Delaware. In total, 2,189 bikers participated in establishing a Guinness World Record attempt.

In planning for the event, FFSF founder and director Sherri Lang of Winter Haven, Florida, requested the help of Matt Nichols, president of Florida Chapter 10 of the Red Knights, also based out of Winter Haven. Matt and Sherry worked together to see that the word got out about their plans, and Red Knights from 10 states sank their teeth into the event. In a response that has become truly characteristic of the Red Knights, the wheels started rolling, and it was game on!

The event was a huge success, with 36 chapters of the Red Knights from Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia participating at 22 locations in unison. Representatives at all poker run locations made sure all the guidelines were followed and documentation of the event was kept in order to officially set the new world record.

Sherri Lang was the backbone of the event, but breaking the record was actually secondary to the real purpose—to raise funds and awareness for the FFSF, a foundation started in memory of her son Benjamin Lang who was killed in the line of duty on August 23, 2004. Sherri works diligently to uphold the FFSF mission statement’s goal of offering immediate financial assistance to the surviving family members of any United States firefighter killed in the line of duty. The foundation is committed to operating in a respectful, professional manner with the highest integrity. To achieve their goal, they are motivated to organize fundraising events and to seek funding from individuals, organizations and corporate entities. The FFSF will disburse those funds when necessary, being mindful of the privacy and sensitivity of the families involved. Following Ben’s death, Sherri also founded LODDprevention.com, a web site that provides resources to raise awareness and promote vehicle maintenance and safety and help prevent firefighter line-of-duty deaths.

Red Knights throughout the Southern Region, better known as the Dixie Confederation of Chapters that stretches from Maryland to Texas, were on board and worked together to turn the event into the world’s largest poker run. And each of the 36 chapters who signed on helped with the planning and orchestration of the event.

In true motorcycle-event fashion, specially designed T-shirts, ride pins and patches were made available. This afforded the opportunity for each chapter to help offset the costs incurred in putting on the event. According to Nichols, the event took an entire year to plan. The category of World’s Largest Poker Run did not exist before then, and Matt and Sherry actually wrote the rules in conjunction with Guinness World Records for the attempt. After numerous meetings with the folks from Guinness and an overwhelming number of e-mails sent to all of the Red Knights leadership in the region, it was time for the run.

The dedication shown by the Red Knights was secondary only to the beautiful weather that stretched from Delaware to Florida that day. With temperatures in the mid-70s and plenty of sun, it was a perfect day to hold the poker run.

Here in my hometown of Ocean City, Maryland, I witnessed the members of Maryland Chapter 3 host close to 250 riders at Harley-Davidson Ocean City. Participants spent the better part of the day riding from stop to stop, drawing cards and enjoying some great camaraderie while visiting some of our regular event sponsors in the area. We had a group from Vicious Cycles out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, come down to ride with us, and Salty of the On the Road with Harley-Davidson television show was on hand with his film crew to record the event for an upcoming episode. The local ride ended at another area event called Pork in the Park, a national barbecue cook-off and festival that is held in Salisbury, Maryland, each year. It was a great way to end the ride, and with the weather as nice as it was, the place was packed.

Once the numbers from all 22 poker run locations were in, the Guinness World Records official on site at Winter Haven tallied the results. It was official! A new Guinness World Record! Following the record-breaking day, Sherri stated, “Today the Red Knights have shown the world who they are and what they are made of. On this day the world will see the commitment and dedication they possess. We commend them. We applaud their loyalty, honor and the respect they have for one another. On behalf on the Fallen Firefighter Survivors Foundation: Thank you, all of you!”

She continued, “This foundation will offer hope and support at a time when it is needed most. We want our families to know they are not alone.” Sherri went on to thank all of the sponsors, volunteers and participants of the entire event. “It is people like you that bring balance to our lives. People like you that make this life worth living. This day proves that together we can and will make a difference!”

After the dust cleared and everything was officially documented, calculated and confirmed, officers from the FFSF announced that they were going to dedicate the day’s effort and the world record in the memory of Chief Charles “Buck” Clough of the Sudlersville Volunteer Fire Company. Sudlersville is located on the Delmarva Peninsula and is home to Maryland Chapter 7 of the Red Knights. Chief Clough served for 26 years in the fire service, and for 18 of those years, he held officer positions of lieutenant, captain and finally, chief. Chief Clough was a true credit to the job and a very respected member who will be sorely missed.

Members of the Dixie Confederation of Southern States will be honored by Sherri Lang, who will be present at their annual convention in Wilmington, North Carolina, in May. At the convention, Sherri plans on making a special presentation to all of the participating Chapters of the Red Knights that helped turn this attempt into a success and a new Guinness World Record for the world’s largest poker run.

The Red Knights, however, are not yet finished. Matt Nichols has a five-year plan! Next year, he plans on getting Red Knights participation from Michigan to Texas and all points east. For the third year, he wants to add eight more states. In the fourth year, he plans to extend the poker run to include the entire continental United States, and in Year Five, the Red Knights will take the poker run international (after all, it is an international organization). Guinness World Records, watch out! (www.ffsfusa.org, www.LODDprevention.com, www.redknightsmc.com)

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