MEREDITH – About 45 motorcycles roared in groups of one or two into to the parking lot at Laconia Harley, donated their money, and got in a queue that would soon take off for a scenic ride around Lake Winnipesaukee.
All of them were there to support the Patriot Resilient Leader Institute, a non-profit organization in Gilford that came together in 2014 to help disabled veterans and first responders and their families “recover their physical, mental and emotional well-being.”
Sunday’s the ride was led by the Combat Warriors Motorcycle Club Big Lake Crew.
“We are leading the ride for the first time,” said motorcyclist Ron Egalka of Gilford.
The Vietnam-era U.S. Army veteran said he has long been involved with motorcycle riding and veterans’ causes in the Lakes Region.
Patriot Resilient Leader Institute spokeswoman Alyssa Mosher said for a little longer than five years, her group has been hosting retreats and workshops across New Hampshire for up to 12 veterans and first responders.
“We do workshops for families related to deployments, post-traumatic stress disorders, injuries and anything else related to their service,” Mosher said. “We work on communications given each unique family dynamic.”
The events are free to the participants with the exception of transportation to and from Gunstock Inn in Gilford, home base of operations.
Patriot Resilient Leader Institute has hosted about 50 retreats that range in scope from workshops to outdoor activities that have included skiing, camping, horseback riding, sailing rock climbing and fishing.
“We look at their physical challenges and arrange things around that,” Mosher said.
Mosher said COVID-19 has presented challenges.
“We have had to put a stop to our in-person retreats,” she said. “We have cancelled eight so far.”
Mosher said the group has done six hybrid or virtual retreats that focused on life skills workshops, coping with PTSD and related topics.
Patriot Resilient Leader Institute has developed other events following social-distancing guidelines. Group sizes have been reduced to six to eight participants and will include a family retreat, a mindfulness and stress management retreat, and a couples’ retreat.
According to its brochure, since its founding, Patriot Resilient Leader Institute has run more than 50 retreats and served more than 500 veterans and first responders and their families. Run almost entirely by volunteers, the group relies on donations and fundraisers for its programming.
For more information, go to camp-resilience.org or call 978-219-4003.