Fallen comrade still a big part of Legacy Run

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American Legion Legacy Run Chief Road Captain Bob Sussan already has dedicated this year’s ride to Verlin Abbott, a Legion Rider who served as Sussan’s co-ride planner and was killed one week ago in a motorcycle accident in Indianapolis.

But at the kickoff of this year’s Legacy Run, Sussan gave Abbott – who’d rode on every Legacy Run, serving as chief road guard – most of the credit for planning this year’s Run, which departs Saturday morning and will traverse nearly 1,400 miles over the next six days.

Sussan said planning this year’s ride presented several logistical challenges, including gas stops at smaller-than-usual gas stations and planning lunch for the ride in areas that don’t have Legion posts or other typical locations for lunch stops.

“We had very limited routes,” Sussan said at the Kansas Soldiers’ Home in Fort Dodge, Kan., on Friday. “I just couldn’t have done it without (Abbott). We did four pre-rides – I guess about three months of our lives. And we’ve got over 6,000 emails just on this ride. And phone calls … we must have done a couple hundred a day.

“I couldn’t have done it without him. And I am going to have to enlist a few people to fill in for next year.”

Sussan hadn’t met Abbott prior to both taking part in the Legacy Run. But Sussan said the two became best friends as both became involved in planning the ride – something he sees from Legion Riders who regularly take part in the Legacy Run.

“I think one of the most interesting things about the people that come here for a week: They feel they’re family,” Sussan said. “They don’t see each other all year. When they come back (to the Run) they feel very, very close. I think that’s what happens here. You’re together 24 hours a day for five or six days, and it builds a bond.”

Starting in Kansas ‘an honor’

The Legacy Run has started from Indianapolis all but 10 of its 11 years before this ride. Starting from his own state is a source of pride for Department of Kansas Commander Terry Marr and his fellow Legionnaires.

“It’s huge,” Marr said. “For them to decide to start here … is just unparalleled. To have this start here is a great honor: to have it in Kansas and to choose this site is an honor.”

Donations already pouring in

More than $79,000 was collected Friday evening. Nearly $30,000 of that came from the Department of Maryland Legion Riders’ Gold Star Legacy Run. Another $5,000 came from American Legion Post 239 in Worthington, Ohio. The post has raised $51,000 in the past nine years for the Legacy Run.

With donations that came in prior to Friday, more than $418,000 has been raised so far for the Legion's Legacy Scholarship Fund. The past three Legacy Runs each have brought in more than $1 million.