By: Jeff Olavarria
The Project Hero Horsham, Pennsylvania, HUB leadership has recently changed hands. Colonel Claudia Malone has passed the baton to a team of three coordinators: Jeff Olavarria, Mark Knorr and Sterling Randolph, all of whom are still serving in the Air National Guard.
Luckily, we continue to glean information from Col. Malone and have ready access to support from Eastern Regional Manager Nathan DeWalt and Honor Ride Director Jack Shepard. They all keep us pointed in the right direction.
Typically, we do training rides twice-weekly, with a short ride on Wednesday afternoons and longer rides on the weekends. Other training milestones include participation in events such as the International Ride of Silence and the American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon. Between now and our Honor Ride on September 16, some members of our group plan to join Jack Shepard at his Honor Ride in Montgomery, New York.
We also do activities outside of cycling. We have been kayaking and we plan to go on a hike over Labor Day weekend. Our camaraderie is also boosted by an occasional social appetizer, dinner or team picnic.
Sometimes, logistics can get tricky when planning these rides. Through generous support from our local Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Chapter 25, a 12-foot enclosed trailer was donated to transport our team’s adaptive and upright bikes. Not only have we customized the interior to move a lot of equipment safely and efficiently, but we also created a custom-designed exterior to attract positive attention to the Project Hero Program.
At Horsham, we put a lot of emphasis on community integration. We value maintaining a close connection with local cycling clubs and community riders who are supportive of our cause. We’ve been very successful in garnishing their support and nurturing strong bonds. Building connections with our community not only promotes the Project Hero program and our cause, but it has fostered a positive impact on our participants as well. We’ve built valued friendships and network connections that reach beyond the bike ride.
We’ve also been fortunate enough to develop reciprocal relationships with organizers of other fund raising causes and events, for example, Mark Feinman, who heads the American Cancer Society Bike-a-thon planning committee. Mark immediately embraced our program; he put us out front and publicly recognized our team at the Bike-a-thon. He’s offered expert ride planning advice for the Philadelphia Honor Ride and promoted our ride on their team social media websites. Mark is joining us for our Honor Ride and he even offered to lend us directional yard signs to clearly mark our routes.
Planning for an Honor Ride can be an arduous event, especially if you’ve never done it before! It’s a team effort. We are fortunate to have Michael Kane, an influential entrepreneur and engaged community rider who plays an active role in both planning and fund raising for our Honor Ride. We invited cycling team leaders to join us for our pre-rides and listened to their suggestions. All our efforts will pay off on September 16 when everyone wins and the Greater Philadelphia area is inspired by Project Hero.
A special note:
Anchored by a powerful Kennedy Health Systems team from New Jersey, Project Hero Horsham participated in the American Cancer Society Bike-A-Thon June 11 from the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia to Atlantic City, New Jeersey. Hundreds of onlookers cheered riders at the starting point, and lined the entire route to wish the team well.
Project Hero participants especially enjoyed the final 10 miles along the shoulder of the Atlantic City Expressway, moving faster than the vehicular traffic, and receiving continuous encouragement from honking horns and shouts from rolled-down windows.
The famous Atlantic City boardwalk presented a breathtaking and emotional push to the finish line, causing many moist eyes among riders and viewers as they considered resilience, accomplishments and love for America. Kennedy Health Systems participants then shared their tent and sumptuous lunch with Project Hero participants on the beach.
Since the Cancer Ride, Project Hero Horsham participants have been busy practicing for the September 16 Philadelphia Honor Ride. Veterans, coaches and volunteers have trained weekly, posted signs along highways, and disseminated flyers to advertise and recruit participants for the event. Training rides have included the Schuylkill River Trail, the Route 202 Parkway, the Bull’s Island Trail System and many country roads around Horsham and Doylestown. The team is looking forward to many more adventures!
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