By RENEE TOMELL
BATAVIA – The inaugural Chris Patterson Memorial Foundation motorcycle ride, staging at the Batavia VFW post Aug. 5, will honor a North Aurora soldier who died in action serving in Afghanistan at the age of 20.
His family and friends created the foundation in his memory late last year, and recently awarded the first performing arts scholarship to a high school student from his alma mater, West Aurora High School.
As the foundation grows, the goal is to extend the scholarship to students across the Fox Valley who have the same passion for music and the arts that Patterson showed, said longtime friend Meagan Holbrook, who serves on the foundation board. A graduate of Geneva High School, she met him as a middle schooler and both attended Immanuel Lutheran Church in Batavia, where they sang in the choir.
People who don’t ride motorcycles also are invited to participate in the 50-mile tour in cars or to simply attend the events at the post. The fundraiser will open with a hot breakfast for all ticket-holders. The after-party barbecue will offer raffles, beer sales by the post, and music by a band, Identity Crisis. The barbecue menu will be prepared by Veterans Q.
The motorcycle route will travel first to Patterson’s alma mater and then out into the countryside before going back to Batavia to head past his church and through the cemetery before returning to the post. There will be a police escort.
Among the motorcycle riders will be members of the Illinois Patriot Guard Riders, said foundation board member Dave Gier, senior ride captain for the group in the region.
“I have connections with many patriotically minded motorcycle organizations in the area – they should be there,” Gier said, adding that everyone is welcome to ride along. “The Patterson family has definitely touched many lives. Hopefully, there will be many people there to support this ride. … It will be a big party and a celebration of Chris’ life.”
Holbrook, who now works in Baltimore, talked about the importance of the arts in Patterson’s life.
“He was in choir and band in [high school], and he was involved in the drama program there too,” she said, noting the two later would volunteer with Honor Flight Chicago, which recognizes military veterans’ service to the country.
Patterson enrolled at Valparaiso University in Indiana, and enlisted in the Indiana National Guard. He died in Kandahar Province in 2012.
He came from a military family, Holbrook said, noting his parents, Mary and Bob Patterson of North Aurora, both served in the Navy, and a brother, Carl, a Batavia resident, served in the Marines.
Holbrook said they were assisted in forming the foundation by Dog Tag Brewing in Montana, which works with Gold Star families who want to create a legacy for their loved one who died in action.
The foundation works to make scholarships available to a graduating senior active in choir, drama or band. The 2017 winner of the $1,000 Chris Patterson Performing Arts Award was Abby Risner.
Holbrook said funds raised at the inaugural motorcycle ride will support Immanuel Lutheran School in Batavia and the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans based in Wheaton, to honor Patterson's legacy of "For God, For Country, For Music."
At Valparaiso University, Patterson studied music education. He was a member of a professional music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, and toured with the school’s premier vocal ensemble, Chorale. Patterson also composed and arranged music with an a cappella group, VuVox, and for the West High STUDy Hall Choir. He was co-captain and first board for the West High chess team.
With the Indiana National Guard, he served as a 12B combat engineer with the 713th Engineering Company based out of the Valparaiso Armory.
If you go
WHAT: Chris Patterson Memorial Foundation motorcycle ride fundraiser
WHEN: 8 a.m. breakfast, followed by 10 a.m. ride, and return for celebration until 3 p.m. Aug. 5
WHERE: Batavia VFW post, 645 S. River St. (Route 25), Batavia
COST: Discounted tickets until July 29; tickets available at the door the day of the ride for $25, $20 per passenger
INFO: chrispattersonmemorial.org/motorcycle-ride, firstname.lastname@example.org