The second day of the UnitedHealthcare Memorial Challenge featured a challenging a 92-mile journey from Glen Allen to Williamsburg.
Our day started with a unique experience: a visit to the Richmond Speedway, where we rode a lap on the racetrack and took a group photo at the start/finish line.
From the raceway, we rode to the Richmond VAMC, home of one of Project Hero’s most successful No Vet Alone HUB programs. Last fall, the McGuire VA hosted a HUB training camp and plan to participate in the upcoming No Vet Alone event on the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day.
We also had community activations with Cintas and then rode to the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Williamsburg, where we enjoyed more Southern hospitality. Our day was capped off by our annual bar-b-que dinner hosted by the Knights of Columbus.
Project Hero is always happy to welcome new riders, and Angel Cuellar is a first-time rider with us at this Challenge.
Originally from McHenry, IL, Angel is stationed at Ft. Lee here in Virginia and began cycling in 2014 after an injury caused her to stop running in marathons and Ironman competitions.
After she started riding regularly, she was introduced to Project Hero by Omar Duran and signed up for her first Challenge this year.
“So far this has been an amazing week!” she said. “Everyone has taken me in from day one and Nikki Hunter has been a great roommate. She immediately took me under her wing and it’s been a very welcoming.”
“In less than less than 48 hours with this group, it already feels like a family to me,” she said. “With riders from all over the country and all over the world, it’s great to find such great friendships”
“So much great conversation with all the riders makes the miles go by fast, and I love watching the low riders and pushers working together. All the comradery is really special.”
Her message to the Veterans in need is “you are not alone. If you need help, there are many groups to help and the veterans who are part of that your experiences.”
In addition to first-time riders, this year’s Challenge also features returning riders who are truly inspirational, including Carlos Rodriguez.
A resident of Hampton, VA, Carlos served our nation as a Marine from 1985-1993 and was injured during deployment as part of the Gulf War. He has undergone 19 surgeries and has his 20th and 21st coming up this September.
Carlos’ injuries have not stopped him from riding and from setting a wonderful example for everyone in the Project Hero family.
“My doctors told me that physical activity is key to recovery mentally and physically,” he said. “I’m here, and I’m riding!”
Despite his injuries and all the surgeries, Carlos remains positive, especially about the role Project Hero has played in his life.
“I have gone from 10 psych meds every day to 2. You realize we have the ability to do more, to recover and even expect the unexpected and to appreciate where we’re at. For me, Project Hero has been a life saver, literally.”
Tomorrow, we ride to Ft. Lee, home of DECA to celebrate the 150th anniversary of DECA with our great partner Pepsico.
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