Day 1: 2017 UnitedHealthcare Memorial Challenge Blog

Presented by Boeing

Miles: 52 

May 30, 2017

The first day of the 10th UnitedHealthcare Memorial Challenge presented by Boeing was one of the most memorable days in the history of Project Hero: not only did we have the best weather day we have ever had for the first day of a Memorial Challenge, we kicked-off the Challenge at the Vice President’s Residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., where were honored to meet Vice President and Mrs. Pence and VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin, as they officially launched the ride.
Getting to the Vice President’s Residence was relatively easy compared with the challenges our staff faced in making sure as many of our riders as possible could enter the property with the approval of the Secret Service to take part in the ceremony.   Staffers Joe Coddington, Jaimie Lynch, Matt Palmer and Chris Pic made exceptional efforts to make the event happen for our riders. More than 300 media outlets nationwide carried the story.

The Vice President spoke to us, and his gracious remarks of support and encouragement for Project Hero and our participants were complemented by a prayer by Mrs. Pence.  We presented signed Project Hero jerseys to the Vice President and Secretary Shulkin and our Women’s Initiative participants including multiple Gold medal-winner and Project Hero rider Shawn Morelli also presented Mrs. Pence with a signed Women’s Initiative jersey.
We left Washington and rode under sunny skies into the gorgeous Virginia countryside escorted by an impressive cadre of motorcycle police from Prince William County who lead us along the scenic Prince William Parkway into Manassas, where we enjoyed lunch courtesy of Brown’s Manassas Subaru and Chick-fil-A.  At Brown’s Manassas Subaru, we were welcomed by Marc Aveni, the Vice Mayor of Manassas and Congresswoman Barbara Comstock. 
One of our first time riders on this Challenge is Steve Gray.  Steve is retired from military service with the Coast Guard and his story epitomizes what our organization is all about.
A resident of the Kansas City Missouri area, Steve has suffered spinal injuries and was using cycling as part of his physical therapy.  He wanted to wear a Coast Guard jersey during his rides, and after searching the Internet, found our Ride 2 Recovery Coast Guard jersey on the Pactimo website. 
“That one was for me!” he said.  “I had no idea what Project Hero was at the time, but then after I bought it I visited Williamsburg and by chance was running late that day,  which was good because instead of leaving we stayed long enough to see a line of cyclists coming up the street.  It was Project Hero when I saw them, I said I know I can do that.  I wanted to be a part of it.”
Steve, who is a substitute teacher and lost his son Zachary to a heroin overdose in 2015 so rides with Zachary’s picture on his bike to honor his son, trained for this Challenge and felt great at the end of his first day ride.  “It was hard in some places, but Ray Clark and Jayme Brown helped me a lot.  I just want to get better as a cyclist and am determined to finish this ride,” he said. 
After the Memorial Challenge, Steve wants to lend his support to the Project Hero HUB in Kansas City. His determination and dedication to finishing the Challenge Series is an inspiration to all of us at Project Hero.  It’s great to have Steve with us and we look forward to riding with him at future Challenges.
Tomorrow the ride head south from Manassas to the civil war town of Fredericksburg.

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