Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Help me help our combat veterans through a program dedicated to helping injured veterans

In May of 2009, I met John Wordin, Executive Director and Founder of the Fitness Challenge Foundation and Ride 2 Recovery (R2R); he was the guest speaker at the Bay Area Brain Injury Task Force (BABIT) Resource Fair.  

At the time, I was struggling with severe depression after losing my best Buddy, my companion dog of 10 years and 8 months. I was gaining weight since I no longer had him to motivate me to get out and walk and my knees ached and one was in need of surgery.

John shared how cycling is helping our combat veterans in their recovery and how he lost the weight he gained playing football in college by cycling.  He invited us to participate in the R2R Golden State Challenge.  A quick blurb about the program follows, if you are reading my blog for the first time and haven't heard of the Ride 2 Recovery.

The R2R Program features cycling as the core activity because it has been found to be helpful in rehabilitation.  Cycling facilitates the recovery process and is an activity most patients with mental and physical disabilities can participate in. The Program includes Spinning® Recovery Labs and outdoor cycling located at military and Veterans Affairs (VA) locations.

I decided the Golden State Challenge would be a fundraising ride I’d like to participate in because it would benefit America’s combat veterans and it would motivate me to exercise for a good cause.

Our military, deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, are returning home with life-changing injuries.  Many of these brave men and women are fighting a new fight.  They are fighting for their physical and mental health.  You and I can help them in that fight through the Ride 2 Recovery (R2R), a nonprofit program created to help injured veterans.

I’m a brain injury survivor and a noncombat veteran.  Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  My personal understanding of TBI is my motivation to raise funds for this program and it means a lot to me to help those serving today.

I benefited from this program after John learned I was veteran who had a brain injury when I raised funds and rode my TREK hybrid in October 2010 on the Golden State Challenge (GSC).  In November R2R found a sponsor for my transportation to the Florida Challenge and R2R loaned me a road bike so I wouldn’t have to pay to ship mine.  Wayne Stetina, an employee of Shimano, one of R2R’s sponsors, taught me how to ride on clipless pedals.  At the last dinner, R2R donated that bike to me. 

I was surprised because I’m not a combat veteran, but John told me: 

Ride 2 Recovery helps all injured veterans, not just combat veterans.  Ride 2 Recovery doesn't care how a veteran is hurt, only that we can help them in their rehabilitation.

Cycling has been good medicine for me; it has helped me deal better with stress and depression since my brain injury, and I sleep better.  From my personal experience with the Ride 2 Recovery and the smiles I’ve seen on our combat veterans, this program is making a difference.  

Our combat veterans are my heroes.  Despite what one might think of any war, we should always support the men and women who made the commitment, took the oath and answered the call of our country.   We are blessed there are men and women willing to serve today.  I’m certain the children of this country turning 18 would be participating in mandatory conscription, also referred to as compulsory military service or the draft, if there weren’t those willing to serve.

A lot of those serving in the all-volunteer military have been deployed several  times. I can only imagine how stressful it is being in harms way 24 hours a day for 7 days a week. Many of the deployments have been for at least a year. Many of the injured veterans on the R2R Rides are combat veterans from the wars in Vietnam, and Iraq and Afghanistan.   Many are dealing with physical challenges, including loss of limb(s), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or TBI.

I’m raising funds for this program.  My immediate goal is to raise $1.00 for each person who died as a result of 9/11 ($2,998).  My long-term goal is to raise $15,000 between now and the end of December 2012.  The funds I raise contribute to the cost of helmets, recumbent bikes, hand cycles, road bikes and specialized equipment to modify bikes to accommodate injuries.

On the 10th anniversary of September 11th, injured veterans, first responders and supporters are participating in the 9/11 American Challenge.  This fundraising and rehabilitation ride is approximately 530 miles.  The ride starts near Ground Zero on Sept 11th. Riders will then cycle from New Jersey to Shanksville, PA and back to the Pentagon where the ride will end on the 18th.

If you believe in helping heal America's combat veterans as much as I do, please consider a donation and help me spread the word about this awe-inspiring program. 

One way you and your family, friends and coworkers can help is by making a donation of any size individually or collectively (passing the hat).

To donate online, go here.  Enter DEBORAH PALMER as the rider you are sponsoring so that I can track how much money I’m raising for the program and I can send you a personal thank you. 

Or, mail a check or money order to:  Ride 2 Recovery, 23679 Calabasas Rd, #420, Calabasas, CA 91302Please add Deborah Palmer to the memo section of your check or money order to ensure I’m credited for the donation and I can continue to track the amount of money I'm raising.

I acknowledge those who donate here unless they request anonymity.  Three of the donors to the Golden State Challenge didn’t receive a personal thank you card because I didn’t have an address for them, but they were all thanked by E-mail and in this blog.

You and your family, friends and coworkers can also help by spreading the word about the Ride 2 Recovery.  In addition to the funds needed to support injured veterans, I want to help raise awareness.  There may be other veterans who could benefit from Ride 2 Recovery and especially Reserve and National Guard personnel who were deployed and returned home and haven’t learned of this program because they are no longer on active duty.

Those who like to bike may be interested in participating.  For information about Challenges, Cyclefests and Spinning Nation events, go to the R2R website and select “Event Info.”  

For those of us living in Northern California:

1.   The Golden State Challenge starts in San Francisco on Sunday, October 2nd and ends on the 8th.  You can also sign up for one day rides along the 7 day route.  The first day ends in Santa Cruz (approximately 75 miles). Scroll down to Register Now!  ONE DAY RIDE
2.   The Stockton Cyclefest is Saturday, October 15th.
3.   The next Spinning Nation event is on Veterans Day, November 12, 2011.

It would be nice to see more local (SF/Bay Area)  teams coming out on the one day events wearing their team kits.  I’d especially like to see the Grizzly Peak Cyclists come out and ride wearing their beautiful Grizzly Peak Century jerseys.  That’s the jersey I want to earn and every day I ride I am training for their century next year.  I had to eat humble pie last year.  Long story.  :-(

Hum, I wonder what team has the strongest and fastest hill climbers.  Could the best climbers be members of Team Alameda, Grizzly Peak Cyclists, Alameda Velo, or the Oakland Yellowjackets? Or, is it another team I haven’t mentioned  in the SF/Bay Area?  

Obviously, this chunky butt won't be at the front riding to see who was the first person to arrive at the finish at the end of the ride ;-), but I bet someone at the front of the ride or a support vehicle driver would let me know which jersey came in first.  If I were to place a bet . . . I’d bet on the Grizzly Peak Cyclists. ;-)  

OK, I hope you know I'm just messing with my home town's two cycling clubs, Team Alameda and Alameda Velo.  I am quite aware that all three clubs have a lot of experienced and strong climbers, but I've only seen the Grizzly Peak Cyclists climb.  And, they climbed right past me on the Grizzly Peak Century Prep Rides. ;-)

Really, if I were to pick out an individual it would be Flash, AKA James Gordon, on Team Alameda and one of my favorite bloggers, because of his experience and power to weight.  He's a lean biking machine! He mentored me on my first climb over 1,000 feet.  Everyone else on that ride was way ahead of us.  A cyclist who can manage to ride with someone new to climbing and slow has got to be a strong rider.

Anyway, this isn't a race.  It's an opportunity to ride your bike for a very worthy cause, enjoy the scenery, meet other cyclists and mingle with Team Ride 2 Recovery and the awesome supporters and sponsors of this program. 

R2R participants (supporters and injured veterans) are sharing about their participation in other fundraising events on Facebook and some of them are even competing.  How cool is that? 

I wanted to participate in the Wheels for Meals Ride last year, but I was on the 2010 Golden State Challenge The Wheels for Meals Ride was my very first fundraising ride in 2009.  I participated because it is a worthy cause and I used it as a venue to train for the Golden State Challenge.

It was a beautiful ride with lots of nice people. I enjoyed the warm, fuzzy feelings I experienced after the ride and now I’m addicted to riding for the causes I’m passionate about.

This year the Wheels for Meals Ride is on Saturday, October 22nd, so I can participate!  Yeah!  I’ll be registering on the Wheels for Meals site the first of October.  I hope that makes me cool, too! ;-)  And, I hope those of you who like to bike, who are over 50 or have aging family members in the SF/Bay Area will participate and/or donate also. 

Please share this post and the information about the R2R Events with your friends, family, and colleagues, and especially those who like to bikeI'm personally riding for the warm fuzzies I get from furthering the cause of helping America’s combat vets.  At the same time, I get to do what I enjoy and that is riding my precious bike.

Please tell any veterans, active military, and reserve and National Guard personnel you know about the Ride 2 Recovery. I've met a few retired military and other veterans on this ride. My homie, Anthony, from Alameda is a cyclist and veteran and has participated in these events since 2008. :-) If you are active military, retired or a veteran, you really should participate in one or all of the rides you can.  If you are proud of your service or are serving today, I'm quite positive you will be glad you did.  

I’m working on my active duty and retired Coast Guard cycling buddies and hoping they will recruit their colleagues and ride the 1st day of the Golden State Challenge and/or the Stockton Cyclefest

I met two El Cerrito police officers at the BE-Pro Conference and I participated in their awesome Bike the Bridges for Special Olympics Event in June.  I plan to ride it next year, too.  I get cooler everyday, right? ;-)

I would love to see those two police officers and their colleagues riding wearing their Police Department or Bike the Bridges jerseys on the one day ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz and/or the Stockton Cyclefest, too. 

If everyone I sent this to who wasn't riding made a $5 donation and/or collected a dollar from members of any club they are involved with, their coworkers, or asked family and friends for a small donation, we'd collectively make a big difference.  A lot of small donations will make a big impact on this program.

Envision this . . .  A business/city, county or state department/club/military unit with 100 people donated $1.00 or $5.00.  Then R2R would receive $100 or $500.  Imagine if 10 departments in Alameda County donated the same.  R2R would receive $1,000 or $5,000.  All one has to do to is give up eating one meal out or give up one cup of specialty coffee and plan a bag lunch and have regular coffee.   I can refrain from a meal out or a specialty coffee because our combat veterans and their families have given up much more. 

What I’ve loved most about getting in to cycling is that I’ve met so many nice people.  I always cherished the esprit de corps and camaraderie among the active military and reserves, and it’s something that I also feel when people get together to bike for a common purpose.

The Ride 2 Recovery 9/11 American Challenge is supposed to have quite a few first responders participating.  Shortly after 9/11, I remember seeing a drawing of a firefighter passing the flag to a military person.  I wish I could find that picture.  That picture has been engrained in my brain because it was touching to see a first responder (representing those who answered the first call to help those trapped in the Twin Towers hit by the planes) at Ground Zero pass the flag to a military person (representing those who answered the call of our country).     

A San Jose firefighter, also a former Marine, raises funds and has supported this program since its inception.  We’ve biked a few times together, but he’s very busy with R2R and his job as a firefighter.  He has a new girlfriend, too, and we gotta’ get her on a bike.  ;-) 

I hope everyone who reads this blog will consider participating in a future R2R event or make a donation to help support our combat veterans in their healing.  No donation is too small and all donations are equally appreciated.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, considering a donation and spreading the word about this program that is making a difference in the lives of many wounded warriors and injured veterans.  

Until next time.



P.S.  Since I wrote this post, I have found the drawing that I saw many years ago on the Internet.  It is titled, I'll take it from here!