Wertz Warriors stop in Sterling
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STERLING — The Wertz Warriors snowmobile group stopped briefly at MJ’s Bar in Sterling on Sunday afternoon as part of their seven day 900-mile trek to Petoskey.
This is the second year that they have stopped at MJ’s, where they collected $15,183.50 this year.
The Wertz Warriors is a snowmobile group that rides between 900 and 1,000 miles each year through Northern Michigan to collect money for Special Olympics. The money raised is used to fund the Special Olympics Winter games, where approximately 1,100 athletes participate each year.
“This is the 29th year that we’ve been riding for Special Olympics,” said Wertz Warrior Board Member Ken Mattei at the Skidway Moose stop Sunday morning. Mattei said this is his 13th year. He said this year’s ride will cover approximately 970 miles, and will end Feb. 6, in Petoskey.
This year’s group consists of approximately 50 snowmobilers, according to a press release from the Special Olympics of Michigan. The trip includes more than 35 locations along the route.
“Each returning rider must donate $3,500 for the privilege of participating in the ride,” said Vic Battani, Chairman of the Wertz Warriors Board of Directors, in the press release. “They must also use their own snowmobile and pay for any equipment they require in order to ride.”
Mattei said the group hope to raise $350,000 this year, which will go to fund about 1,000 athletes at the Special Olympics Winter Games, which take place Feb. 2-5.
“It’s great to watch them get their medals,” Mattei said.
Mattei said the riders are awake by 6 a.m., on their snowmobiles by 7 a.m., and ride until about 4 or 5 p.m.
“A lot of these guys pretty much do it from the heart,” he said.
Mattei said this year’s ride is in memory of Mark “the Bird” Fidrych, a former pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, who died last year. Fidrych had participated in the ride for the past 18 years. To honor Fidrych, a tribute video is being played at each stop on this year’s ride, Mattei said. In addition, Fidrych’s wife will be present at the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Games.
For more information about the Wertz Warriors, visit www.wertzwarriors.org.
Managing Editor Eric Young contributed to this report.