TALLMADGE — "The day was amazing."
That’s how Edie Deyarmin described the Deyarmin Foundation’s 15th and Farewell Memorial Benefit in honor of her son, Lance Cpl. Daniel Nathan Deyarmin Jr., who died in 2005 while serving with the U.S. Marines in Iraq. The foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, donates money to veterans and veterans groups.
The final 100-mile motorcycle poker run on June 9 included participants who traveled from as far away as Arizona, Texas, Florida and Colorado, and ones who ranged in age from 9 to 82. Edie estimated that more than 2,500 people attended the poker run and the subsequent car and truck show at Tallmadge High School.
Edie said 478 motorcycles, 188 motorcycle passengers and 86 cars registered for this year’s poker run. It took 22 minutes for all of the motorcycles to exit the Tallmadge High School parking lot. Unlike last year, the weather cooperated and provided a pleasant day for the farewell ride.
"It was a gorgeous day for us," said Edie. "Everybody was comfortable." She noted it was cloudy, "not too hot," and a little windy.
Edie noted she appreciated the generosity displayed by everyone involved with the event. After tallying up the donations, raffle baskets, and rider registration fees, more than $62,000 was raised for the Deyarmin Foundation.
"People were very, very generous," said Edie.
She noted that T-shirt sales sold out and the total amount of money raised for the 50/50 raffle was $3,911. A Marine who served with Nathan won the raffle and gave back nearly $1,000 of his share to the foundation, according to Edie. Jersey Mike’s donated $17,000, which was the cumulative amount in sales that four of its local sites recorded on a day it designated to raise money for this cause. Rally For the Troops donated $500 and the Greater Akron Motorcycle Club provided $200 and presented a painted motorcycle fuel tank to the Deyarmin family to commemorate the event.
Edie also offered "a huge thank you" to everybody that helped with the event. She said the 250 volunteers who chipped in at Tallmadge High School and at the other stops for the riders "did an awesome job. Their hearts are full for veterans."
Connecting with people
The event gave Edie a chance to visit with people who have been involved with the event and those who have benefited from the run’s charitable mission.
Edie said a particularly emotional moment for her was greeting the family of World War II Veteran Vernon Leasure, who passed away in February.
A Mogadore resident, Mr. Leasure was a regular attendee at the event for the past several years. Each year he attended, he brought a World War II-era military jeep that he had worked with his sons to restore. Edie called him a "sweet, gentle, good man." Since Mr. Leasure had died a few months ago, Edie noted she had not known whether his family members would attend this time.
This year, some of his children and their spouses attended the benefit, and brought with them two World War II-era military jeeps that Mr. Leasure and his sons had restored. Those vehicles were on display during the car and truck show that took place following the memorial ride. The family members wore T-shirts with a picture of Mr. Leasure standing next to one of the jeeps.
"I went up there and welcomed them, but I couldn’t talk to them because I just started to cry," said Edie.
Edie said she visited with veterans who had been assisted by the funds raised by the Deyarmin Foundation.
"They are so grateful, and it is emotional because some were in really bad shape, but it is nice to see them and they are doing so much better now," she said. "…It’s nice to know that they support what supported them."
Edie noted many of her other family members came in from out of state for the first time to help with the event. Her casualty officer was also in attendance. In the time after Nathan died, Edie said her casualty officer stood by her, helped her and stayed in contact with her.
"It’s a bond that cannot be broken," said Edie.
Edie said she saw other Marines who served with her son, and many of them gave her "a big hug."
"It means a lot whenever they come around," said Edie.
She noted that the Marines who served with Nathan do not often speak with her in person because they’re not sure how to approach her. Edie said she received texts from some of those service members praising her son’s generosity and assistance. One of those men told Edie that, while they were serving together, Nathan welded a metal bracket on to his Humvee to give him additional protection. He told Edie whenever he got into his Humvee he "always thought of" Nathan.
Knowing that many of Nathan’s military friends struggle with survivor’s guilt, Edie said she encouraged them to "live for tomorrow," and told them, "you fought for our freedom. Enjoy it."
Final year for the event
Before this year’s event, Edie said she and her husband, Daniel, decided this would be the last ride they would organize. She noted the event is a large undertaking and added they want to enjoy more time with family and friends.
In the 14 years since the beginning of the event and the creation of the foundation, nearly $600,000 has been raised to assist veterans and veteran organizations.
Edie noted the Deyarmin Foundation will continue to accept donations and as long as money is available in the foundation’s coffers, "100 percent" of it will go to veterans.
The Honor Wall — which contains photos and stories of military service members, both ones who were killed in action and ones who served in peace time — has been a fixture at the event. Edie said she has not yet determined where the 300-foot long wall will be displayed. She noted she wants to make sure the wall ends up in a place where it is "respected."
In a previous story, Edie talked about how "it’s been very humbling to have the support and Nathan’s service honored, and his death honored."
At this year’s event, Edie said attendees told her that it was "amazing" to watch a community rally together after losing one of its own to war.
"This brought everybody together and healed a community from a huge tragedy," said Edie. "And they’re very proud."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.