Military join local businessman on 200-mile bike ride for charity

15th annual charity ride gets off to a rainy start

POSTED: 01:03 PM PST Nov 08, 2012    UPDATED: 01:03 AM PST Nov 08, 2012 
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - -

Servicemen and women took off on a 200-mile bike ride through Southern California Thursday morning as part of local businessman Tim Esser's effort to raise money for local military organizations.

Now in it's 15th year, the charity ride kicked off in a rainy Palm Springs, and will end Friday, at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

Esser and the group of about 20 will stop at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corp. Base, spend the night, and continue on to Camp Pendleton.

The ride honors all veterans and active duty members of the military. This year, Esser is riding in memory of 27-year-old Gunnery Sergeant, Daniel Price.

Sgt. Price, a Marine, died July 2012 in Afghanistan. It was his 6th deployment. He had recently recovered from a gunshot to the knee before willingly deploying again.

Honored at the beginning of the ride -- his wife, Rachel Price.

"This time he didn't make it home, but he made it to his heavenly home," Price said.

Hosting the kick-off, William Hutchinson, President of the Palm Springs Police Officer's Association.

"At a time when our country is so divided, one thing we can both agree upon, is that we would not have this great country without these dedicated men and women in our military," Hutchinson preached.

Among the attendees, Supervisor John Benoit, baseball legend Steve Garvey, and desert-native and world boxing champ, Timothy Bradley.

Esser says he knows the economy is tough, and encourages others to simply thank the men and women who have served, or are currently serving, if a donation isn't possible.

"I'd like everyone our there to call a serviceman, doesn't matter what branch of the military," Esser requested, "or to thank a veteran for serving and protecting our country."

He asked that we all keep in mind the men like Daniel Price, who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

"I love wearing his shirt," Price's widow said, while embracing his flannel button-down on the rainy morning. "It reminds me of him. It's a good thing."

If you'd like to donate, Esser mentioned support for local branches of Wounded Warriors, Salvation Army, AmVets, and Wounded Veterans Association.

You may know Esser from many local charity events, such as Tour de Palm Springs, and his business, Esser Heating and Air Conditioning.

Follow Samantha at @SamanthaCortese