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Third annual Buddy Matthews Memorial Ride & Benefit set for Aug. 10 in Leetsdale

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Buddy Matthews Memorial Ride & Benefit for Autism, now in its third year, has helped Sewickley Valley YMCA spread the word about autism and help more children.

Motorcycles, classic cars, hot rods and non-riders are welcome at the event set for Aug. 10 at the Leetsdale Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3372, on Beaver Street. Proceeds last year provided financial assistance for about 200 autistic children to attend Y summer camps and take swimming and Tang Soo Do classes, said Barb Herman, Y membership manager.

Linda Voshall of Ambridge organizes the ride in honor of her late son, John “Buddy” Matthews, 35, who died in a motorcycle crash in 2009. His son, Joel, 12, of Economy, is autistic.

“It was Buddy's Dream to help autistic children,” Voshall said. “So we are continuing his legacy by keeping his dream alive.”

Funds also have been used to provide training to YMCA employees on how to work more effectively with autistic children.

“It used to be just kids from around here whose parents heard about the programs from our program guides, but now we have kids coming from all over,” said Herman, who helped launch the first fundraiser and helps organize each year.

The first year, $8,000 was raised, of which $7,500 was donated to the Y. The second year, $11,000 was raised, of which $9,000 was donated to the Y and the rest to a local family who has an autistic child.

This year, in addition to raising money for Y programs, the fundraiser also will provide a $1,000 scholarship to a senior at Ambridge Area High School who plans to major in special education in college.

The event had its beginning when the late Matthews began a poker run in 2008 in memory of his friend who died in a motorcycle accident.

The poker run now has turned into a memorial ride, with Voshall organizing the event.

About 30 to 35 volunteers help each year, said Voshall, who works at the VFW, which donates the club for the event.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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