HOLLYWOOD, CALIF., AUG. 25–Absolutely inspirational riding conditions prevailed during the morning and afternoon hours throughout the SoCal area on that late summer day. On my way to attend a special media-only pre-ride event for the 3rd annual Boot Ride at Alex’s Bar on Anaheim Boulevard in Long Beach, THUNDER PRESS correspondent Jon DeMaria pulled up next to me at a stoplight on the PCH, dangling from the apehangers on his Road King. We checked in at the registration desk and strolled inside the bar where we activated our respective SLRs and proceeded to capture images of the half-dozen regular Sons of Anarchy cast members on hand. Rusty Coons, the president of the Hell’s Angels Orange County chapter and co-owner of Illusion Cycles in Westminster, who plays Rane Quinn on the program, added gravitas to the photo shoot.
Four of the S.O.A. regular cast members, Kim Coates (Tig), Mark Boone Jr. (Bobby Munson), Tommy Flanagan (Chibs) and Theo Rossi (Juice, who is a Boot Ride Ambassador), made themselves available for interviews, photos and network video cameras. DeMaria, got some comments from Rossi in regards to being Boot Campaign Ambassador and playing an active role in the success of the Boot Ride: “Yeah; I don’t know how else to put it,” said Rossi. “They do so much to keep us all free; I’m in awe of the men and women in our military. If there’s a way I can help any of them with their problems, I’m all in. Plus, the Boot Campaign is a great organization. They do a lot of good. Everyone I’ve met really cares!”
At the appointed time, give or take a half-hour, the mounted escort detail joined the automobile escort members and led the S.O.A. cast members aboard their V-Twins west on Anaheim Boulevard toward the Battleship U.S.S. Iowa in San Pedro Harbor. The entourage passed through the parking area of the floating museum that was decommissioned in 1990, collecting nearly 500 bikes and riders who had registered to ride with the S.O.A. cast members. The procession headed up 110 North to the 10 West and on to La Brea Boulevard heading north through a commercial section of Hollywood to the rear parking area at the Happy Endings Restaurant/Bar on Sunset.
As I dropped my kickstand I could hear Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown rockin’ the stage, which was set up in the Happy Endings parking area directly behind the main building. When a member of the volunteer staff noticed my wristband and my media credential, she squired me directly to the shaded media corral located in front of the fenced-off red carpet where the S.O.A. cast members were slated to appear and pose for photos. Next thing I knew, the actors began streaming out of the V.I.P. tent and onto the red carpet. Talk about a media feeding frenzy! The group included Jimmy Smits (Nero Padilla), Emilio Rivera (Marcus Alvarez), Dayton Callie (Wayne Unser), Michael Marisi Ornstein (Chucky Marstein) and Christopher Reed (Filthy Phil). Theo Rossi, Kim Coates, Mark Boone Jr., Tommy Flanagan and Rusty Coons, who had all ridden up from Long Beach, also appeared on the red carpet. Charlie Hunnam (Jax Teller) didn’t come out on red carpet and instead remained in the V.I.P. tent.
Curtis Stigers, co-writer of “This Life,” the S.O.A. theme song, along with his band the Forest Rangers, followed Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown and reprised Curtis’s creation to the delight of the throng. Then around 5:30 p.m. Blackberry Smoke took the stage and favored the crowd with a performance that shook that Hollywood venue in proper Southern-rock style.
The raffle featured some choice prizes. Bruce Willis donated a custom 1972 Ironhead Sportster from his private collection. Plus there was a Mad Jap Kustom’s bobber up for grabs, as well as a three-day EagleRider rental and some Sons of Anarchy autographed posters.
About The Boot Campaign
When Sherri, Ginger, Heather, Leigh Ann and Mariae, five friends and independent businesswomen from east Texas, read the book Lone Survivor, written by Navy Cross recipient Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, based on the failed June 28, 2005, mission “Operation Red Wings” in which four members of SEAL Team 10 were tasked with the mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd in Afghanistan, they decided they wanted to figure out a way to give back to our American military heroes. They came up with the idea to sell combat boots and donate the profits to the charities, which support our troops most effectively. Those charities are: Military Recovery Fund, Lone Survivor Foundation, Military Support Foundation, Wounded Wear, Armed Forces Foundation, Not Alone and Special Ops Survivors. The fetching quintet called themselves “The Boot Girls.” And so with a borrowed pair of combat boots the Boot Campaign was born.
After such a modest beginning it seems almost unimaginable that in 2012, the fourth year of its existence, the (approximately) $2.3 million the Boot Campaign raised was almost 10 times the amount they had tallied in 2011. Then again, when you go to the website and read each of the founding ladies’ brief bios you’ll undoubtedly come to the same conclusion that I did. Considering all the talent and dedication the Boot Girls bring to the party, maybe the unqualified success of the operation isn’t so unimaginable after all.
So, just what does the Boot Campaign aim to accomplish? When I read the mission statement on the website I realized it answered the question as eloquently, and at the same time as concisely, as any description I could come up with. I quote: “The Boot Campaign cultivates awareness, promotes patriotism, and provides assistance to military, past and present, and their families. Through the sale of its signature military combat boots, general public donations, and corporate sponsorship, the Boot Campaign operates five distinct initiatives—Jobs, Housing, Wellness, Urgent Assistance and Family Support—in the process of caring for military personnel healing from a variety of physical and emotional combat wounds, embodying the campaign motto that, ‘When They Come Back, We Give Back.’ Boot purchases and donations help provide PTSD counseling services to warriors and families, adaptive clothing for wounded military, therapy services, prosthetics, mobility equipment, counseling, wellness retreats for military families, mortgage-free home donations, academic and employment assistance, and so much more.”
Does the Boot Campaign sound like a project you’d like to get involved with? Go to the website www.bootcampaign.com. I know you’ll find it highly informative and, ultimately, inspirational.
The Boot Ride came about when Sherri Reuland, one of the original Boot Girls and the president of the Boot Campaign, got in touch with a representative from the popular FX TV show Sons of Anarchy and asked the cast members to lend their celebrity to a ride/fundraiser. It was a natural fit and the cast members enthusiastically threw their support behind the project. The initial ride, in October of 2011, drew almost as many celebrities and media as participants, but the following year that all changed when a battalion-sized group of SoCal V-twin riders filled the grounds of The Happy Endings Restaurant/Bar on Sunset to capacity and beyond. This year’s turnout and the amount of funds raised happily exceeded expectations.