By Richard Rhinehart
Ottawa, Ontario, June 17, 2014 – For 14 days beginning June 20, a team of 16 injured Canadian, American and Danish veterans in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge will ride bicycles, hand cycles and recumbent bicycles nearly 800 miles from the capital of Canada to the capital of the United States.
Departing from the steps of Canada’s Parliament at 9 a.m. June 20, the riders will travel from ten to 90 miles each day as they pass through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia on their way to Washington. Arriving in the capital on July 4, the team will participate in the National Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue before completing their journey.
Participating riders include war and conflict veterans who served in Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Joining the veterans will be nine able-bodied riders, two serving as pilots for blind veterans riding tandem bicycles. Other veterans have experienced loss of limb, paralysis, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries during their national service.
“The CanAm ride will provide a blind soldier a unique experience and perspective of North America,” said Army veteran Steve Baskis, who lost his sight in Iraq. “Along the way between two nations, I hope to motivate and inspire others to dream big and go far.”
“I am doing the ride to connect with other injured soldiers who are trying to overcome their limitations through participation in fitness-related activities,” said Canadian Armed Forces veteran Michael Fuentespina, who completed tours in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. “I hope to learn from their experiences and use this both personally and professionally.”
U.S. Navy veteran Scott Bates looks at the ride as a way to recover from his service-related injuries. “Cycling itself can even be looked at as a metaphor. While you may not be the fastest or most talented, if you are persistent and do not give up, you will cover vast distances sooner than you realize,” Bates said.
Retired Master Sergeant Marina Libro is the only woman veteran participating in the ride. Libro retired from her Army service in 2011. “This is why I ride,” Libro said. “Cycling keeps me sane. When I can’t ride physically, I am riding mentally. I am beginning to open up more and tell my story more because of cycling. Cycling is my safe place. That is what I hope to get back to on each ride I go on: my safe place, my place to decompress and to physically exert and challenge myself in a safe environment with other people just like me. People say you can’t see your soul – I can: every time I look at my trike.”
Created by World T.E.A.M. Sports, the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge is the latest sporting event by the national non-profit organization. For more than two decades, the New York-based organization has developed and managed inclusive sporting events for persons with disabilities and able-bodied persons. This unique combination illustrates the benefits of teamwork and cooperation – that by working together, great challenges can be overcome. World T.E.A.M. Sports looks to the “coalition of the riding” in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge to provide inspiration to other persons with disabilities and to the public.
Corporate sponsors for the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge include Realty Capital Securities LLC, American Portfolios Financial Services, Benson Botsford LLC, Exit 10, Gerstein Fisher, Penske Truck Rental, and Pershing. Partners include Wounded Warriors Canada and Soldier On from the Canadian Armed Forces.