LAPEL, Ind. —
Driving around on a golf cart to find a good spot to watch bikers leave for the Amanda R. Wiles memorial ride, Mardi Gras Pizzeria and Bar owner Todd Armstrong soon pulls up along other viewers near Indiana 132, grabs his cellphone and starts to record the ride.
With goosebumps on his arms and tears in his eyes, he waves to the estimated 500 bikers as they head toward Anderson.
“Is it not the most amazing thing you’ve seen?” he asks. “It’s all for Mandy.”
Amanda Wiles, also known as Mandy, was a good friend, and Armstrong was one of the multiple organizers for Mandy’s Wish. The daylong event was created to raise money for funeral expenses for the Wiles family, along with awareness of domestic abuse. Whatever is left over will go to Dove Harbor and Alternatives, organizations that deal with domestic violence or violence against women.
Amanda, 31, was slain June 9 in her rural home, allegedly by Roy Parmley whom police are still searching for nationwide. Parmley was the ex-boyfriend of Amanda’s mother, Terri Wiles.
“In 10 years from now, we want people to remember not how she died, but ‘wow, what a legacy and wow, what a difference she made and wow, all these people loved her,’” said Diane Wilson, spokeswoman for Mandy’s Wish,
Wilson said another friend, Bob Turner, was putting together a memorial ride since Amanda loved Harley-Davidsons, but that they figured they could just work together to make one big event.
“All of a sudden, it grew on its own and became this huge thing,” she added.
Armstrong said it started out as a one-band patio show but evolved to around 10 bands. He added that “people just kept contacting us” wanting to help and that it went viral online with the Mandy’s Wish website and Facebook.
Wilson said they had over 70 volunteers, and about 90 percent of them knew Amanda in some way or another.
They not only had multiple events, like the memorial ride, a live auction and live music, but also sold Mandy’s Wish T-shirts and wrist bands. Wilson said some youths even set up a lemonade stand to help raise money.
She said they wanted to reach out because it’s what Amanda would have wanted; that she would’ve wished for some good to come out of her death.
And, the event also helps the town heal, Wilson added.
Armstrong said they’ve already had a victim reach out to them and that making a difference is the goal. They didn’t save Mandy, he said, but they can help others.
He became friends with Amanda as she worked for her mother’s bar, Woody’s, across the street, and said they would go visit each other during breaks.
He remembers party planning in which they “would bounce ideas off each other,” and both heading off to the casino after getting “frazzled” by aspects of the real estate job she got Armstrong into.
Armstrong said that Amanda “was full of energy” and that they always had a blast. They would cry and laugh together.
“She was just fun,” he said. “Very vibrant and easy to get along with.”
Wilson said Amanda was like a daughter to her and described her as a hard worker with strong morals and ethics.
She would just grab a person’s heart, she said, and was empowering. To best describe her she used one word: aspiring.
“She was the kindest, sweetest person I’ve ever met,” she said. “If you were her friend, you knew she loved you.”
Lee and Shelly France of Atlanta didn’t know Amanda, but they were on their Harley to support the cause.
Shelly said events like this are important because they not only prove to victims that there are people out there who care, but provide assistance and options.
“So many times it’s (the abuse) hidden, a victim is afraid to come forward,” she said. “Doing things like this brings it out (in awareness).”
Armstrong said they do plan to do the event again next year. Maybe not to this extent, Wilson added, but some sort of fundraising each year.
Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.
The memorial ride went from downtown Lapel to Anderson and back. It took bikers past Amanda’s gravesite, to the Polish Club, R-Bar, Scampy’s and then past Amanda’s home and neighborhood.
A live auction involved a Hoosier Park package valued at $1,500 among other items and a memorial balloon release was held in the evening.
Local food vendors, children’s activities, and local bands who played from 1 to 9 p.m. were also a part of the day’s activities.
To learn more about Mandy’s Wish, visit mandyswish.com.