Gainesville Harley-Davidson honored military members, veterans and first responders with its annual charity event benefiting 10 Can Inc.

Gainesville resident Rhonda Mashburn looked up before she saddled up onto her motorcycle Sunday morning.


"Not a cloud in the sky," she said. "This is a good way to thank our veterans."


About 450 Gainesville bikers revved their engines the day before Veterans Day to honor local military members and first responders at Gainesville Harley-Davidson’s sixth annual Bikers on Parade.


The 15-mile charity parade started on the Santa Fe College campus and ended at the Gainesville Raceway north of the airport.


The event benefited 10 Can Inc., a Newberry-based nonprofit organization that helps heal resilient community warriors, including military, first-responder and civilian families, through outdoor recreation, education and rehabilitation.


Founder Matthew Burke, who is a sociologist and a retired United States Air Force Major Sergeant, said his life and goals went on hold after he became injured in Afghanistan.


Burke became confined to a wheelchair and underwent rehabilitation in the Air Force for two years before he was discharged.


Afterward, his family became homeless, and he had to stop working on the adolescent development program he was developing.


"I felt a calling from God," Burke said. "I learned what worked and what didn’t for rehabilitation."


In 2013, he established 10 Can as a way to help families like his.


10 Can focuses on a warrior’s children, teaching them how to fish, hunt, farm and more with their loved ones. Even a military veteran who is wheelchair-bound can join his son on a buck hunt, thanks to a specialized wheelchair track 10 Can uses.


"We believe that healing happens at home," said Burke, who is now able to walk again.


As he stood before the bikers Sunday morning, he thanked them and said that warriors who come home to face their own problems with self-destruction all have a chance to recover.


"You guys are all what makes this possible," he said. "We are America, we are strong, and we are going to roar through the town and show Gainesville that this is red, white and blue nation."


Thousands of military and first-responder families have been helped by 10 Can, Burke said. Demand for its services have outgrown its financial capabilities, he said, but partnering with Harley-Davidson has provided more than $50,000 in support over the past few years.


Burke shook his head in disbelief at the number of community members who showed up to Sunday’s ride, their engines roaring in the starting parking lot.


"There’s really no way to describe it," he said. "That support from the community is one of the things that has helped keep me here."