We started with great weather today as we rode from the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva under blue skies on our 50-mile ride to Palatine, Illinois.
It’s Women’s Day at the 2017 UnitedHealthcare Great Lakes Challenge and it was appropriate that, Velette Britt spoke with us before the ride. Today is the two-year anniversary of her accident that left her paralyzed below the waist just before the Leadville 100 mountain bike ride. I was there with Project Hero’s Joe Coddington, Michael Manning, Jimmy Stivers, Mike Tobin, and Nate DeWalt and none of us will forget that day. The courage Velette has shown as she has come back from such serious injuries is an inspiration to all of us. Al Kupsid, the Mayor of Lake Geneva, also spoke to us before our departure.
At our USO-hosted lunch in Spring Grove, IL, we honored this year’s Most Inspirational Riders. Congratulations to Marahani Joseph, Pat Ryan, James Tavares, John Ao and Megan Hewitt, who were presented with Fit Bits donated by the USO and Geico for their superb performances in the 2017 Great Lakes Challenge.
The day concluded with a wonderful dinner at Rolling Oaks Farm hosted by Dick and Judy Duchioisses, Mary Galvin, Marimarie and Frank Konicek, Charley and Sandy Denny, Colleen Konicek and Dede Wamburg, the organizers of tomorrow’s Barrington Honor Ride. It was one of the most beautiful locations any Challenge has visited and after the dinner, the program was highlighted a live band.
A first time rider, Candice Morgan, has made a truly positive contribution to this year’s Great Lakes Challenge.
A runner for most of her life, Candice is a Navy veteran who served as an Aviation Support Equipment Technician. She was deployed to the Mediterranean including service in Dubai, France, Italy and Greece.
Candice has never been a cyclist and only recently began riding a road bike. She participated in her first organized ride at the Wounded Warrior Solider Ride just weeks ago and did so well, a friend recommended her to Project Hero.
“I’m really happy that I was invited,” she said. “My roommate Sara has helped me out so much. I was nervous about clipping in!”
Candice has enjoyed her experience at the Great Lakes Challenge. “I feel good today and I feel so much comradery here. You see other riders more challenged than I am and that motivates me. If they can do I know I can”
“This is a great group,” she said. “Everybody understands each other. Other organizations ask you “what’s wrong” first, but that’s not how Project Hero approaches it. It’s rejuvenating and I’ll be sad next week because I’ll miss all this.”
Best of all, her experience with Project Hero may have created another cycling enthusiast. “I think I might change from running to cycling now!” she said.
After we take part in the Barrington Honor Ride tomorrow, we ride into Chicago as we reach the end of our journey, which culminates Monday with a 17–mile ride that finishes at Rob Paddor’s Evanston Subaru.
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