I’m just going to say it; no matter how busy or great you think you are, Luis “Hollywood” Rodriguez is one of those people who make you feel like you’re standing still and you only think you’re smart. And, the minute you meet him, you just can’t help but hug him like he’s your oldest best friend.
As Founder and President of the The Wind Therapy Freedom Riders, Luis is getting a lot of press lately because his social riding clubs—1,200 members in eight chapters—are on a mission to be “part of the solution.” Over the past few months, ‘we the people have had enough’, and have taken weekend rides all over Texas to support and boost morale for the protectors—law enforcement, military, and first responders. What you don’t see on the news is that they are also tremendously busy behind the scenes providing cardinal works of service to those who need protection—children and ‘regular’ citizens.
We have no politics; we simply support what we believe in and we RIDE.Luis Rodriguez
SHUTTING IT DOWN
Enjoying his Sunday recovery from a full Saturday spent on the road in the hot Texas sun, Luis explains, “It is unfortunate that media focus so much on violence. We travel through many Texas towns and cities, but we have found the cameras only arrive when there is any prospect of a confrontation. Our goal is not to create controversy or public spectacles; we ride only to show support and boost morale within police and fire departments because no one should have to worry that doing their job right could wind up in tragedy.”
Attacks on police spurred the group to action. “We got tired of seeing cities destroyed, and people saying a lot but doing nothing, so we went into action.” More than once, particularly when the group rode to support Austin PD, rumors that certain groups intended to mirror Kenosha and bragged that they could shut down any police support events. “We said, ‘Not on our watch.’ We don’t go anywhere to confront, and within 18 minutes, we had control of the corner at APD. Once the troublemakers are arrested, people calm down. Everywhere we go, counter protesters turn to leave when the bikes roll up.”
He is also pleased when dozens or hundreds of residents come out to greet them. “People tell us they feel safer and empowered around the bikers. That’s the story I wish was being told. Just because we are pro-police, doesn’t mean we aren’t all about bettering the community. We just want transparency and fairness.”
The club is making great efforts in community involvement. Last year, they met a young lady named Haley, who was being bullied and was suicidal. She says she was just about “to do it”, but decided to just see what the ‘day on the road’ with the WTFrs would be like; it was the first day in a long time that she did not think about killing herself. Luis says, “Haley really changed our direction too. Statistically, 14 percent of high school kids consider suicide; 8 percent attempt it; and 4 percent are successful. My daughter, Arianna, is also 14 years old and they both helped us create the ArLey Circle.”
The ArLey Circle takes in kids who are being bullied, or in crisis. They look to the schools to see what steps are being taken to help, then they go into action again. “We shut down their social media and open new, private ones with ArLey Circle friends. Each person has a peer partner for support, and we flip everything to a new, positive start.” Luis is working to network and raise money to provide these kids with their own ‘cuts’—the vest or jacket with patches that identify them as part of the WTF Club family.
“Haley took another young man under her wing, after his mother found him in his room in time to save him. He is a perfect example of kids who do better with us. We would like to build this program and introduce it to school districts. Too often, bullying incidents are underreported because communities are worried about how it looks. But kids are great at getting each other to talk, and just one victim is too many.”
Luis is also teaching entrepreneurship in prisons. As a business strategist and marketing expert, his goal is to help inmates prepare to build small businesses. Having been through a short state visit himself, he understands that rehabilitation is good, but skills are better. “I teach them how to create and market a business with whatever skills they already have so they are sure to have the natural passion to make it work.” He reports his students’ recidivism, over three years, is less than 5 percent of average for new charges.
“I get a lot of my business sense from biblical principles. I don’t tell people that the teaching is faith-based, but, if they ask, everything I teach in my class has a foundation in the Bible.”
In addition to business skills, he and the club members are teaching free courses in motorcycle safety. Noting that Texas leads the nation in fatality rates, he is determined to have the state drop the California-based education system he believes to be corrupt. “Motorcycle accidents kill more people than COVID every day. We are trying to change that by making training available, at no cost, to anyone learning to ride. Our training uses the same program provided for $20,000 to police officers, but we provide it to the public for free.”
ALL ARE WELCOME
Clubs are coming together and expanding across Texas and other states. Anyone who rides a motorcycle and likes what the group stands for is welcome to join. “We encourage people to come and hang out with us. If they like the camaraderie, and understand that we don’t disrespect or mistreat anyone, they can join up, earn patches, and become part of the family.”
He also has a Community Division for anyone who wants to be a part of the movement but does not currently ride. Volunteers are needed at events, and within club programs, to support and defend the communities they live in. “Spending 15 months in prison gave me a deep appreciation for life and I’ve based my whole club on this. I never want to be part of a cause, only the solution. That’s harder, because you have to have a goal and actually do something.”
Visit WTFRS.com or on Facebook/WindTherapyFreedomRiders to see where they will be next, or to find out how you can join, start a club, or just be part of the solution yourself.
CONCERNED ABOUT VOTING? LUIS INVITES YOU TO VISIT THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE TO SEE WHICH POLLS WTFrs WILL BE RIDING TO AND PARKING NEAR ON NOVEMBER 3 — MAKE ONE OF THOSE YOUR VOTING PLACE.