John Morlock, a Marine Veteran, has always been into cycling. Living in the Los Angeles area, there was always a place to ride. But as a recreational cyclist, he had explored all around his area and was looking for something more challenging. In 2010, he found Project Hero. John’s life-changing experience was so important, he got his entire family involved.
John was hooked after riding as a single-day rider on the last day of the 2010 UnitedHealthcare California Challenge. As a non-injured Veteran, John raised funds to participate in local Honor Rides and Challenge events.
“As I became part of the R2R/Project Hero family and had such positive experiences, I wanted my family to experience that also,” he said. So the entire family got involved in riding and the fund-raising efforts.
Both of John’s daughters, Michelle, 16, and Joana, 13, have participated in the Project Hero program. Since 2011, they have raised money to attended local Honor Rides and have rode single days during Challenge events.
“I was 11 years old when I started riding a bike,” said Michelle. “My first ride was the Agora Hills Honor Ride with Joana and my dad.”
In between events, John and the family train in their local area. He got involved with a nearby HUB in Long Beach, and eventually started his own HUB in Hollywood, where he and his daughters ride with other Project Hero riders. Along with training, fund-raising is a part of their schedule. When Michelle was 14, she raised $4,000 to participate in a weeklong Challenge event. Except for one rainy day, she rode every mile of the 2015 UnitedHealthcare Army/Navy Challenge.
“I felt great after the Army/Navy challenge. It was my first full challenge so it was definitely a different experience,” she said.
One part of the experience for the Morlocks is raising funds to attend the events; and they have come up with some creative ways to fundraise. They have asked family and friends, hosted dinner nights at local restaurants, washed cars and even attended a charity episode of the television show, “Let’s Make a Deal.” Michelle said all the hard work put into fund-raising was definitely worth it.
“It feels great knowing that all the money I’ve raised is going to injured Vets,” she said. “They have given up so much for me and all the people in this country; and knowing that I can somewhat repay them and thank them for what they’ve done is incredible.”
Michelle raised funds to attended the 2017 UnitedHealthcare Memorial Challenge, but she didn’t come alone. If John’s family isn’t on a bike during an event, they are supporting it. Joana came out to the Memorial Challenge to support all the Healing Heroes and help with luggage.
Even though Michelle has ridden a full Challenge, she wasn’t the first family member on a bike. Sibling rivalry got Michelle in gear. Joana started riding before Michelle, but she said riding with her sister is always a good time.
“Joana started riding first, so I had to beat her,” she said. “But even though we can be competitive at times, It’s nice to get out and just have a good time.”
John’s wife, Susana, said that riding is good for the family because it helps them stay active and allows them to participate in an activity as a family. Susana feels her family is inspired by the Healing Heroes of Project Hero and always enjoys coming out to the rides for the camaraderie.
“I was amazed at seeing how all the Veterans with different disabilities worked together to get through the day,” she said. “I’m really proud of all the support they give to our healing heroes”.
Look for the Morlocks at the 2017 Unitedhealthcare California Challenge.
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