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Motorcycle Ride Honors Army Ranger Killed In Afghanistan

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - On Saturday morning, hundreds will ride motorcycles in honor of an Army Ranger who died after being shot in  Afghanistan six years ago. Fire sparked by lightning almost halted Friday night's fundraising part of the Memorial Ride.

Twenty-one-year-old Ben Kopp died after being shot in Afghanistan in 2009. The Army Ranger saved the lives of six of his fellow Rangers, and in death, donated tissue and organs, including his heart, to 75 people.

It's why Kopp's mother, Jill Stephenson, and others press on, despite a set-back.

Silent auction items line the room at Bogart's Place in Apple Valley. The items were saved from her Rosemount home early this morning and some still hold the lingering smell of smoke.

"Lightning struck outside my town home and hit a gas main and it started the box on fire," Stephenson explained. "You know it's not my first rodeo with something like this, unfortunately."

She said a neighbor pounded on the door, saving her and her guests' lives.

"I don't think my heart's ever beat so fast in my life," Stephenson said. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

Stephenson said people come from all over the country to honor her son by joining in the Ben Kopp Memorial Ride and an associated dinner. The auction items help raise funds for local veterans organizations in the state.

"Six days ago was the six-year anniversary of my son dying," Stephenson said. "It doesn't feel real. I wish someone would just wake me up and tell me that it didn't happen, but I feel really grateful that we're all alive and nobody was hurt.

"My son is a veteran, and that's why I do this: to give back in his honor. It's not about me tonight, it's about veterans."

Stephenson will live in a hotel for the foreseeable future. She said insurance should cover her loss. Saturday, July 25, is the fifth annual Ben Kopp Memorial Ride. To learn more about it or how you can help them reach their $20,000 goal, click here.

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