GENESEO – A caravan of 30 men and one woman on bicycles made their way from
Milan to Geneseo City Park shortly after 7 a.m. Friday. Their stop in Geneseo was part
of a 500-mile, five-day, bicycle ride across Illinois to preserve the legacy of those service
men and women from Illinois who have made the ultimate sacrifice in support of the
United States of America.

The Gold Star 500 group was greeted by city officials, VFW representatives and
members of the community at City Park. The hosts provided the riders with food and
conversation before the group before climbed back on their bikes to make the trek to their
destination for lunch in Rock Falls.

LTC David Helfrich of Smithton (Ill.), president of the Gold Star Mission and a
lieutenant first class in the Illinois Army National Guard, said, “A Gold Star survivor is a
family member of any service man or woman who has given their life in service to our
country. In the state of Illinois, since the global war on terrorism, we have had over 280
service members who have died as a result of service to our country.”

This is the third year for the 500-mile trip which raises funds to provide scholarships in
honor of fallen service members and each rider joins the bicycle riders after having
secured pledges that benefit the scholarship fund.

“We do not have a mandatory amount of pledges necessary for someone to take part in
our ride,” Helfrich said. “We ask riders to provide donations to fund our scholarships.”
:Gold Star Mission has raised more than $70,000 in scholarships honoring Illinois’
Fallen Heroes, he said, and by the end of this year we will be able to award $100,000 in
scholarships.”

“For the Gold Star Mission, the physical pain of pedaling a bicycle for 500 miles within
five days pales in comparison to the emotional pain of those who lost loved ones who
were serving overseas for the U.S. military,” Helfrich said.