An annual Region event each May that has come to signal the coming of summer began as a means for a heartbroken family to deal with grief after losing a beloved son and brother to cancer. Although meant as a one off project, The Joe B. Memorial Benefit has evolved over the last dozen years to become a sustaining memorial that serves to help other local families in need.
This ride/rock outing is a major fundraiser for The Joe Betustak Memorial Foundation, named in the memory of Detective Sgt. Joe Betustak Jr., a Hammond native and graduate of St. Casimir (1984), Bishop Noll (1988) and St. Joseph's College (1992). Before losing his battle with bone cancer, Betustak served his city of Hammond for 13 years in law enforcement, as a motorcycle officer, and as a member of the SWAT team, and finally as a detective with the narcotics unit.
Along the way, it has gathered strong support from the regional music community as area performers step up each year to donate live performances after the ride concludes to celebrate the safe return to rock to further raise funds for the cause. This year's entertainment, organized by local drummer Mark O'Connor of the band Hail Mary, will feature music provided by his group, Steve "Beaver" Lopez & Friends, The Classic Band, and Dreamz.
The event has grown from a tool of emotional recovery for one family into a designated non-profit charity that now helps many. "Becoming a 501(c) (3) a few years ago keeps more money in the fund and enables us to help more people," explained Joe B's younger brother Scott Betustak. "The benefit would not have grown as it has without the dedication, support and hard work of members of the board and the people on the committees whose efforts make this event a success year after year.
This weekend's gathering marks the 13th consecutive year, for the motorcycle run and multi-band party, which this year moves from its usual location at Wolf Lake Memorial Park in Hammond to the nearby Knights of Columbus Hall (3916 173rd St.) in Hammond.
The funds raised from the all day, rain or shine event are donated to one or two local families who, like the Betustaks before them, are dealing with a family member battling with cancer. This year’s recipients are Joseph Pottorf and Laura Laba.
Sign up begins at 9 a.m. with a $15 donation for single rider and $25 for two on a bike; and the first 100 bikes signed up receive a free commemorative pin. First bike out at 11 a.m. and last bike in at 4 p.m., with a variety of raffles helping to supplement the revenue generated by the event.
Refreshments are available for purchase on site. Donations can also be sent to: Joe Betustak, Jr. Memorial Fund, Inc. c/o American Community Bank, 4521 Holman Avenue, Hammond, IN 46327. More info: 219- 616-2224 or via the Facebook group: Joe Betustak Jr. Memorial Foundation, Inc.