Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the entry fee for motorcycle riders. The fee is $25.
Saturday marks the fourth anniversary of the death of McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Maness. It also is the fourth year his widow is hosting the Dwight “Maddog” Maness Veterans’ Assistance Motorcycle Ride.
But, Sue Maness said, the entire month of September is just one long emotional ride. Sept. 2 would have been her late husband’s 51st birthday, and two weeks after his death and this year’s benefit in his name, would have been their seventh wedding anniversary.
The ride, which has raised thousands of dollars to help local veterans through TLS Veterans in McHenry, is a way she and his friends can feel connected to him.
Maness’ initial injuries occurred on Oct. 16, 2014 – the seventh anniversary of being a deputy – during a well-being call in Holiday Hills. He was shot multiple times and died months.
Before becoming a deputy, he served 20 years in the U.S. Army where he worked as a drill sergeant, an airborne ranger and an airborne ranger instructor.
Sue Maness said the couple had doctor visits at Great Lakes Naval Academy, Dwight Maness, in a wheelchair, made it a point to wheel himself up to the floor where the wounded veterans were.
“I had to go find him and he was just up there, sharing stories and laughing with these guys,” Sue Maness recalled. “Some of them had one leg, one arm, he just clicked with these guys, especially being in a wheelchair. It was like [he thought], ‘Now, I know what these guys have given up and what they are going through.' It warmed my heart to see him doing that. He was so excited about that all the way home … talking about his new buddies and how he couldn’t wait to get back up there and talk to them again.”
That connection inspired the event.
"I just wanted to keep that going,” she said. “So many veterans fall through the cracks. No veteran should ever want for anything.”
She chose to make it a motorcycle event because that is how the couple met. During a charity ride in Chicago her motorcycle broke down and he showed up with his truck, took her and the broke-down bike home. After reuniting months later, the two “were inseparable” and shared their love for riding together.
“When he and I rode together it was like riding as one,” she said.
Last year’s run, which attracted about 70 bikes and 250 people, raised $6,000. The year before, raised about $11,000.
The funds help “to fill in the gap” for those vets who may not otherwise meet specific criteria for emergency financial aid, said Stephanie Larson, program coordinator for TLS Veterans
For example, to qualify for emergency housing a household of one cannot earn more than $31,200, a household of two, no more than $35,650, a household of three, no more than $40,100, she said.
Some of the funds were used to help pay phone, electric and gas bills. Some to help pay for emergency dental care and car repairs to help keep veterans from losing their jobs.
“Most of the time we are not paying the entire bill … but we are part of it,” said Laura Franz, executive director of TLS Veterans. “So, we contribute to getting them up to date.”
So far, 39 veterans have been helped through the funds raised by the “Maddog” ride, Franz said.
Tom Gscheidle of Wonder Lake said he and Dwight Maness were “best friends" and they often rode together. The “Maddog” event honors him and their friendship. When he died, Gscheidle said they all “buckled together” and helped get the event going.
“It’s a way for us to kind of kick back and say, ‘well, hey, we still remember and he will always be in our hearts.’”
He said Sue Maness “does an awesome job” keeping her husband's memory alive.
“It is always a good benefit to do,” he said. “It keeps us all moving and thinking of Dwight. He still is in all of our hearts.”
On-site registration begins at 9 a.m. at the McHenry Moose Lodge #691, 3535 N. Richmond Road in Johnsburg. Kickstands up at 10 a.m. The ride heads north to Wisconsin, making three stops and returning to the lodge where there will be food, raffles, live music and cash bar. Information available on the 4th annual Dwight “Maddog” Maness VA Motorcycle Ride Facebook page. Riders $25, passengers $10, walk-ins $10.