More than 200 injured veterans and their supporters will set off on Sunday, Oct. 13, on the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge, a seven-day, 450-mile bicycle ride from VA Palo Alto Health Care System – the birthplace of Ride 2 Recovery – to Los Angeles.
Ride 2 Recovery supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for injured veterans, featuring cycling as the core activity. From indoor spinning training at military installations to multiday, long-distance rides, Ride 2 Recovery helps injured veterans heal through the challenge of cycling long distances using hand cycles, recumbents, tandems and traditional road bikes.
“When I ride my bike, I feel relaxed,” said Juan Carlos Hernandez of Woodland Hills, Calif., a retired E-4/Specialist, Chinook Gunner Crewman, U.S. Army, who lost his right leg when his aircraft was hit by a grenade. “Cycling helps me physically and mentally, keeping my mind clear and focused, and aiding my walking and quick recovery. I love the program and what it has done for me and my fellow veterans who are recovering. I believe cycling does so many things that medicine cannot, especially the peer-to-peer mentoring we have with one another on the rides.”
These service men and women have been training for this ride as a means to build strength and conditioning, and to help overcome the challenges many veterans face when returning home from service. Most of the cyclists are introduced to Ride 2 Recovery from a Warrior Transition Unit/Battalion or Veterans Affairs facility through R2R’s Project HERO program.
“The UnitedHealthcare Challenge Series offers our healing heroes involved in the Project HERO program a way to get back in the game of life,” said John Wordin, president and founder, Ride 2 Recovery. “We have established 37 Project HERO program locations on military installations and at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. Participants are evaluated and coached by the R2R staff to rebuild strength and conditioning, while concurrently healing the effects of PTS (post traumatic stress), traumatic brain injuries and depression. Cycling is a powerful therapeutic exercise that they can do alone or in groups for the rest of their lives.”
“As a former Marine Officer, I understand the sacrifices made by our veterans,” said Tom Wiffler, chief field operations officer, UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans. “Riding alongside these service men and women is a privilege I have had several times, and I look forward to supporting them again in the Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge.”
California Challenge cyclists will start their journey in Palo Alto, and ride south to Gilroy, then along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway along the state’s scenic coastline with overnight stops in Carmel, San Simeon, Pismo Beach, Solvang and Ventura. The ride will conclude Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Santa Monica Pier.
The public is encouraged to gather along the daily ride routes or at the hotels to support the cyclists at any juncture along the route. To see daily stops and events along the route, or to sign up for the California Challenge, click here for the online ride guide.
This is the fourth year UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, is serving as Ride 2 Recovery’s title sponsor, providing financial, in-kind and volunteer support to help America’s injured veterans.
Ride 2 Recovery is one of many ways UnitedHealth Group supports veterans and their families. In 2012, UnitedHealth Group joined the 100,000 Jobs Mission, a coalition of major U.S. corporations that share the goal of hiring 100,000 transitioning service members and military veterans by 2020. UnitedHealth Group partners with a variety of organizations to help source military and veteran candidates such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, RecruitMilitary and the Wounded Warrior Project.
Earlier this year, UnitedHealthcare became the managed care support contractor for the West Region of the U.S. Defense Department’s TRICARE program, serving nearly 2.9 million military service members, retirees and their families in 21 states, including more than 846,000 in California.
Image courtesy Tiffini Skuce/ Ride 2 Recovery