On a Saturday morning in early May, close to a dozen motorcycles are parked outside of Cosmos House of Pancakes on Fort Wayne's north side. Inside, veterans from conflicts as far back as the Korean War have breakfast together, laughing, sharing stories and enjoying each other's company.
The Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club hosts the breakfast on the first Saturday of every month, part of the club's mission to support military veterans in the area. The event in May was the third of the monthly gatherings.
“(The club) thought it was pretty important we do something like this,” said Gary Perkey, one of the club's founders and whom the rest of the club calls Gunner. “It's just another opportunity for vets in the community to come together and have that brotherhood and make new friends.”
The Warrior Breed is a local motorcycle club. Like several others in the area, it has a specific mission. These clubs not only ride together, they also host events and raise money for causes that are important to members.
For Warrior Breed, it's taking care of military veterans. Everyone in the club is a veteran.
“You have some guys who are in (motorcycle clubs) for the image or the intimidation factor, but then you have your clubs that actually have a purpose and a mission,” said Mike Mullen, who members call Gates. “They have their 'why,' as I call it.
“A lot of clubs know what they do; they know who they are, but they don't know why they do what they do. Warrior Breed is different, we have our why.”
Perkey, who served in the Marines from 1977-81, has been riding motorcycles his whole life and has been in motorcycle clubs since the early 2000s. He co-founded the Warrior Breed, which is a 501(c)3 charitable organization, five years ago out of a desire to help veterans in need.
“We just wanted to have a motorcycle club organization that veterans could come to and find the same brotherhood they had when they were in the military,” said Perkey, clad in a black leather jacket with “Warrior Breed MC Indiana” printed on the back. “Also, (we wanted) something a little bit different, and that's a motorcycle club with a true mission and that mission is to take care of veterans in the community, (especially) veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury) ... and just any other manner of needs.”
Since its founding, the club has hosted a wide array of events, with the monthly pancake breakfasts the most recent.
Last year, the group teamed with the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department to help restore Memorial Grove, planting 125 trees to commemorate Allen County World War I veterans.
Warrior Breed is not the only local motorcycle club with a mission. The all-female club Babes Out on Bikes, which is headquartered in Columbia City, is another charity group, and its focus is on those struggling with breast cancer.
When members say they help people with breast cancer, they mean exactly that. Rather than donating to a cancer research center, Babes Out on Bikes gives money directly to people who are battling the disease. The club has given more than 90 women about $300 each.
“These women are incredible women; they're stronger than we are,” said club president Sherri Gordon of those the club has helped. “They're warriors. Each story's different.”
Gordon told the story of one woman whom the club had assisted and who later died from cancer. The club, along with a couple of other area motorcycle clubs, escorted the woman to her funeral.
“We walked in (the funeral) and in this time of great sorrow, her mom and her sister, as soon as they saw us said, 'We're so glad you're here, you meant so much to (her),'” Gordon said over lunch at Rack & Helen's Bar and Grill, a New Haven restaurant where the club has its meetings. “To bring that kind of joy, just in family lives, too, is very, very rewarding. That's why we do have some people that join us who don't ride.”
Still, Babes Out on Bikes – or “BOOBs” as the club colloquially calls itself – is a motorcycle club, and most of the 20 members do ride, taking part in what Gordon calls “wind therapy.”
“Our big thing is, you don't see motorcycles parked outside of a therapist's office,” said Gordon, who started riding at age 10 when her late grandfather taught her. “There's nothing like being out on the road.”
Ride 2 Provide, although not an organized motorcycle group, is an annual event that also raises money to help people in need in the Markle area.
The event has been going for 13 years and will have its 13th ride Aug. 18 at Markle Park. The participants ride their motorcycles on a predetermined route and money raised is given directly to one or two families each year. Last year, Ride 2 Provide raised close to $17,000.
“It really affects people in a big way,” said Zak Dobson, who has ridden in the event and has also helped make barbecue for it with his father, who owns a mobile barbecue restaurant called Fat Jon's. “As my father would say, it's something you're truly not gonna go to hell for. It's a big help to a lot of people and really changes some people's lives.”
And that seems to be a common trait among those who ride motorcycles: helping others.
“You'll never find a more generous group of people,” Perkey said.