Meet The Riders
Participating veterans of 2014 CanAm Veterans’ Challenge live with injuries and disabilities ranging from loss of limbs to blindness to Post Traumatic Stress. These veterans served Canada, Denmark and the United States in wars and conflicts from Vietnam and Bosnia to Afghanistan and Iraq.
At many major cities the team will pass through on their journey, community and media events will be held to promote the ride and allow the public to meet the riders. The team will visit military bases and associated organizations along the way, and connect with local communities of persons with disabilities as requested.
At World T.E.A.M. Sports, “The Exceptional Athlete Matters.” Every participant in our events is exceptional. Disabled participants increase self-confidence, are a model to other disabled citizens, and inspire the able-bodied.
Join our riders – come along for the ride!
U.S. Army veteran Steven Baskis served with the 4th Infantry Division in Baghdad, Iraq following his enlistment in January 2007. Only eight months into his deployment, his squad was attacked while on patrol. Severely wounded in the attack, Steve was sent to Walter Reed Medical Hospital for recovery. There, he was told that his injuries included the loss of vision, along with nerve damage in his arm, broken bones, a mild Traumatic Brain Injury and multiple shrapnel wounds.
Transferring to the Hines VA Blind Rehabilitation Center in Chicago, Steve began learning how to live without his vision. In addition, he researched sports that would allow him to regain his fitness.
Competing in cycling and Ironman events, Steve climbed the third highest volcano in Mexico in a Global Explorers expedition. Inspired by his experience, he joined World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Himalayan Expedition in October, 2010, which successfully climbed the 20,070-foot Lobuche East. In April 2014, Steve rode a tandem in the Face of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg with his pilot, Victor Henderson, who also will be riding with Steve during the CanAm.
Steve currently participates in a number of outdoor activities, including rock climbing, white water rafting, kayaking, bicycling, hiking, alpine and downhill skiing, scuba diving, archery, hunting and sky diving. Steve is training to qualify for a U.S. Paralympic National sports team “to represent and serve the country as an adaptive athlete in the next summer or winter Paralympic Games.”
“The CanAm ride will provide a blind soldier a unique experience and perspective of North America,” said Steve. “Along the way between two nations, I hope to motivate and inspire others to dream big and go far.”
Noting that “physical fitness, sports and recreation have all contributed to my rehab and recovery,” Steve is hopeful that his participation will “inspire other wounded veterans to live again.”
U.S. Navy veteran Scott Bates is firm in his belief. “Cycling has changed my life,” he said. “It has brought a world of experiences and allowed me to learn, do things, go places, make friends, and create memories that I otherwise wouldn’t have.”
A participant of three Adventure Team Challenge events in western Colorado from World T.E.A.M. Sports, the Littleton, Colorado resident also rode the 2014 Face of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg. In addition, he has participated in Wyoming’s 2010 and 2011 Laramie Enduro and the 2011 Superior Morgul Classic in Colorado.
“Cycling was critical in my efforts to try and recover from my previous service connected injuries,” Scott explained. “Unfortunately, in the summer of 2012 while cycling, I was struck by a hit and run driver. The result of this incident included a traumatic brain injury resulting in long-term post-concussive syndrome. Additionally, I have had three separate surgeries – a left hip labrum regrafting, repair of a left shoulder SLAP tear, and repairing two herniated disks in the back.”
“Through a lot of hard work, I am hoping to be able to once again participate in the types of activities I had done prior to this incident.”
“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,” Scott said.
Participating in the CanAm Challenge “to honor all the men and women who have served our country in uniform, and those who were injured and those who gave everything in their service,” Scott looks to participate again in the 70-mile Laramie Enduro, “a difficult and long endurance mountain bike race. I know I won’t be setting any records but it would be an amazing accomplishment to actually be able to finish.”
The CanAm and other events, including this September’s Adventure Team Challenge near Eagle, Colorado will help Scott bring attention to several issues of importance. “I hope to draw attention to the fact that our injured veterans still need help and support, and frequently face roadblocks and red tape trying to obtain help. I also want to call attention to the seriously increasing number of cyclists injured or killed by automobiles. I am riding for the people who have helped me in my recoveries both past and present, family, friends, teammates, co-workers, medical professionals, and more. I hope to make them proud.”
Canadian Armed Forces
Robert Bidder joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1985 as a medic, serving at various locations across the country and in Iraq. Injuring his neck during his tour in Iraq, he sustained two herniated cervical discs resulting in chronic radicular discomfort and some loss of cervical mobility. “As well, I suffer from post-traumatic stress,” Robert said.
Presently posted in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Robert lives with his wife of ten years and a newly-acquired Labrador retriever puppy.
“Growing up in the mountains of British Columbia, I am an avid skier and thoroughly enjoy camping and most outdoor activities,” Robert said. “Cycling, both mountain and road, has and continues to be a therapeutic outlet.”
“I am participating in this ride to meet other like-minded individuals. These events provide an opportunity for social interaction for those who otherwise might have difficulties due to symptoms related to operational stress injuries.”
Noting that his military career is coming to an end this fall, he notes he hopes “to be able to remain in a position where I can assist injured or ill veterans. It is amazing that activities such as this are available to injured soldiers and a big thanks needs to be given out to event sponsors.”
U.S. Air Force
New London, New Hampshire Air Force veteran Harry Carr is active in outdoor sporting activities, despite a service-connected neurological condition that has left him visually impaired. As a result of this condition, Harry has not driven a vehicle in more than ten years. But, he rides his recumbent cycle regularly.
A past participant of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Face of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg, Harry also competed in the 2013 Adventure Team Challenge in western Colorado, riding a two-wheel mountain bike, rappelling off cliffs and rafting the Colorado River.
“In addition to the new freedom that recumbent cycling has given me, it has also given me more confidence in myself,” Harry said. “I feel a lot healthier.”
An active kayaker, Harry participated in the 2012 Outasight clinic from Team River Runner with other visually impaired and blind veterans in southern Montana. He also is an active adaptive skier, both on snow and on water. Harry participates in events with the New England Handicap Sports Association and the Boston VA, where he was introduced to his cycling partner, Bill Hamilton. “I thank Bill for encouraging me to pursue the sport of cycling.”
“Participating in a dual country cycling event is an incredible honor,” Harry said. “I look forward to the camaraderie and new friendships that will be established from the CanAm ride.”
“I hope to encourage other veterans to participate in cycling events and to continue the esprit de corp among all of our riders. Additionally, I want to press forward to encourage other disabled veterans to be active and passionate in their sporting endeavors,” said Harry.
The 51-year-old is interested in returning again to the Adventure Team Challenge this September, and hopeful of an invitation to participate in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Sea to Shining Sea cross-country ride.
Canadian Armed Forces
Canadian Armed Forces veteran Michael Cotts served in the military for 25 years. Medically released from his national service owing to a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress, Mike notes that he keeps himself active by daily exercise at a gym, running, bicycling and “doing the odd triathlon.”
Having served in Bosnia for three tours, Kuwait, Somalia and Afghanistan, Mike achieved the rank of Sergeant Major as a combat engineer.
“I am doing the CanAm ride in order to raise awareness of PTS,” said Mike. “Particularly the fact that PTS doesn’t equate to a death sentence. People with PTS can contribute to society in a positive manner. You can maintain a healthy lifestyle through physical fitness.”
During the two week ride from Ottawa to Washington, D.C., Mike has a goal. “I hope to connect with others who share the same philosophy as me that in order to be mentally fit, you need to be physically fit. As well, I look forward to sharing and hearing from others who have PTS or other debilitating injuries.”
Following the conclusion of the CanAm, Mike reports he is looking forward to spending some time with his family. He also is planning on establishing an Atlantic Region Ride2Recovery program for other veterans in his region.
Canadian Armed Forces
Major Richard E.J. Desjardins has actively served with the Canadian Armed Forces since 1974. The Kirkland Lake, Ontario native has served in many positions during his career, both in Canada and overseas. At present, he is the Commanding Officer for the Joint Personnel Support Unit, Prairie Region.
A graduate of Selkirk Community College, the University of Manitoba, College Militaire and the BC Justice College, the Major is married and has two children.
With interests in motorcycles, cycling, travel and fitness, Richard is participating in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge as a challenge to himself, and “to meet allied soldiers who are facing challenges themselves, as a result of their service.”
Richard hopes that through his riding from Ottawa to Washington, he can “assist in showcasing our ill and injured soldiers who are using fitness to cope with their injuries, challenging themselves and the stereotype that they represent to their peers and the people of our nations.” The CanAm can “show other injured people, both military and civilian that they do not need to be defined by their limitations, but can adapt to succeed regardless of any perceived limitations.”
Events like the CanAm help greatly to expand knowledge about those who are injured in the line of duty. Following the ride’s conclusion on July 4, Richard intends “to continue to draw attention to the successes of our ill and injured, as well as to displace the myths and limitations that are considered to be defining them.”
Canadian Armed Forces
Michael Fuentespina joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1991 as a medic. Specializing in aeromedical evacuation, Michael completed tours in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. He also has deployed to several countries, including the United States, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, and Middle East and African countries.
“I currently work at the Canadian Armed Forces’ Joint Personnel Support Unit in Winnipeg, Manitoba assisting ill and injured soldiers,” Michael said.
“I am doing the ride to connect with other injured soldiers who are trying to overcome their limitations through participation in fitness related activities,” Michael explained. “I hope to learn from their experiences and use this both personally and professionally.”
Through his participation, Michael hopes to “recapture the sense of camaraderie that I experienced working in a theater of operations with our U.S. counterparts.” In addition, he seeks to “raise awareness that soldiers may have injuries but do not need to let those injuries define who they are.”
Following the conclusion of the ride, he’ll return to his position in Winnipeg, “supporting our ill and injured soldiers.”
U.S. Marine Corps
Marine Corps veteran Marc Gabiger retired from the service in 1987 and married his wife, Lori. Living in his home state of New York in 1988, he was invited to try a National Guard Drill Weekend. Participating in Crew Drills at Fort Drum, he could not believe that “they paid people to have that much fun. I signed up for one year to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke, on what they called a Try One back then. With the exception of a short time away for a cross country move and again when our son was diagnosed with leukemia, I have been in the Guard ever since.”
Currently living in Boise, Idaho, Marc currently serves in the Idaho National Guard. “I truly love what I do,” Marc explains. “I am the Battalion Quality Assurance NCO for 1/204th RTI on Gowen Field. We are a Regional Training Institute that trains soldiers in MOS producing courses as well as NCO Development for Cavalry Scouts and Tankers.”
“In my spare time, I enjoy running, bicycling and playing hockey,” Marc said. “I am also an Assistant Equipment Manager for the Idaho Steelheads, an ECHL Professional Hockey Team that feeds the Texas Stars of the AHL and the Dallas Stars of the NHL.” In addition, Marc spends time with his wife and children outdoors, including motorcycling “whenever we can.”
Participating in the Face of America ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports in 2013, Marc found the upcoming CanAm ride to be of interest. “I am doing this ride because I want to prove to myself that I can do this and any other challenge that I put my mind to,” he explains. During the ride, he “would like to meet other likeminded veterans and hope to build a lasting bond that might continue on to other challenges.”
Next on Marc’s schedule is “a triathlon in August and a half marathon in November.” He also would like to do a coast-to-coast bicycle ride in the coming years.
U.S. Air Force
A veteran of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 2012 Sea to Shining Sea cross-country bicycle ride, the annual Face of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg and the Adventure Team Challenge New York, Larry Gunter joined the U.S. Air Force in 1986.
Traveling extensively throughout Europe, Africa and Central America, the Phenix City, Alabama resident learned in 1994 that he was going blind. Unfortunately, there was “nothing anybody could do because retinitis pigmentosa has no cure.”
Married to his wife Cindy with two small boys at the time, his family faced an uncertain future. Despite the loss of his sight, Larry was clear in that he chose to be a strong role model for his sons.
Choosing to be active in sports, Larry became involved in several outdoor activities. He kayaked the Yellowstone River with Team River Runners. He skied the steep alpine slopes of Vail and Breckenridge, Colorado. He trained at all three Olympic Training Centers. He rode his tandem bicycle cross-country and climbed New York’s Slide Mountain. He also is training to compete in his first Iron Man with his pilot, Bob Clayton.
“I want to show all people with disabilities they can accomplish anything they set their mind to and strive for,” Larry said of his involvement with sports.
Through his activities, Larry said he wants “to inspire many to set lofty goals for themselves and see what they are capable of.”
US Army veteran Jeffery Henson of Heflin, Alabama has been legally blind since 2001. With low vision in his left eye and blind in his right, Jeff has remained exceptionally active in outdoor sports.
In the last five years, he rode his bicycle across North America in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 2012 Sea to Shining Sea. In 2009, he participated in the organization’s Coastal Team Challenge along the Pacific Northwest coast with a team of American and Canadian veterans. A regular participant in the organization’s Face of America bicycle ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg, Jeff also participates in the Marine Corps Marathon, the LA Marathon and the Bataan Death March.
“I’m doing the CanAm Challenge in honor of my fellow soldiers who are injured and ill, and I’m riding for them,” Jeff said. “I’m also dedicating my ride to a very special doctor who told me a year ago that she was going to change my life.”
Referred by the VA to Dr. Carol Rosenstiel at the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham, the Ophthalmology specialist provided Jeff with particular care and dedication. “She has enabled me to see things I have not been able to see in over 14 years. Thank you, Dr. Rosenstiel, you did change my life.”
Riding the CanAm, Jeff wants “to show other people with challenges that you never know when that miracle might happen. Never give up hope even when you feel there is no hope. Always believe in yourself, even if people around you start to doubt you.”
Following the CanAm, Jeff is interested in beginning a cycling program in Heflin that will encourage children and persons with disabilities to begin cycling. “I would love to one day show up at the Face of America ride with a team of 25 riders from my hometown.”
Veteran Christopher Levi joined the U.S. Army in December 2003. Following basic training in early 2004, he served at Fort Polk, Louisiana. In 2006, while serving in Bravo Company as a mortar-man, he was deployed to Afghanistan. Returning to the United States, his unit was re-deployed to Iraq in 2007.
“After serving six months, I was injured while heading to the Green Zone,” Chris reported. “I lost both legs above the knee and had several injuries to my dominant hand. I quickly recovered at Walter Reed Military Hospital, were I was involved in a lot of activities” in his rehabilitation.
“I was given a hand bike, but I didn’t really have anyway of using it until I met Lon Dolber,” a member of the World T.E.A.M. Sports board of directors. “Once I was able to bike regularly I found I really enjoyed the challenge of long rides,” Chris said.
“I am doing the CanAm ride because I enjoy the challenge,” Chris said. “It is [also] an opportunity to show the friendship between people of different countries.”
A participant of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ annual Face of America ride between the Pentagon and Gettysburg, Chris also has assisted with the Adventure Team Challenge New York, a multi-team challenge in the Catskill Mountains that includes developmentally-disabled young adults. For the CanAm, Chris is hoping to “mentally toughen” himself owing to the length of the ride and the terrain between Ottawa and Washington.
Following the ride, Chris will continue his academic studies as he works toward a Bachelor Degree.
Master Sergeant Marina Libro retired from the Army in 2011 with a full medical discharge. A specialist in piloting boats, she also helped train others in learning piloting skills. As a civilian, she worked as a Virginia State Marine Police Officer, also with boats.
Having served multiple overseas tours with the Army, “driving boats for Uncle Sam,” Marina transitioned to the Army Reserves. In 2004, she was called back into Active Duty for a one year tour that lasted a full seven years.
“In 2010 I had my final injury. Coupled with previous injuries and illnesses, the Army decided I was no longer fit for Active Duty and transferred me to the Warrior Transition Unit,” Marina explained. With a variety of injuries and ailments ranging from TBI to PTS to broken bones and tendons, with headaches, spasms and seizures, Marina found the road to recovery was long. “After spending almost two full years rehabbing from various surgeries and trying to figure out what mystery virus was attacking my heart and lungs, Uncle Sam gave me a full disability retirement.”
Returning to Virginia, Marina discovered her civilian career was also finished. “While the Police had been very patient waiting seven years for me to return from Active Duty, they did want a fully functioning body, not the broken one the Army was returning to them. So, they retired me on full disability as well.”
With two careers suddenly gone, Marina turned to cycling. She had picked up cycling during her rehabilitation, and found it to be therapeutic. “How I get through each day to this day with ongoing surgeries and the therapy dealing with them is due to cycling” Marina explained.
“My PolyTrauma Team at my VA in Richmond got together and bought me my ICE Vortex FS recumbent. It is specially fitted to me and my injuries.”
Since taking up cycling as part of her rehabilitation, Marina has been very active in cycling. “I have done 11 Ride2Recovery Challenges, six Warrior Rides, two Face of America rides as well as multiple local single day community rides with my local riding club. I have also started a local chapter of Ride2Recovery’s Project HERO cycling program at my VA (McGuire VA) in Richmond.”
“This is why I ride,” Marina 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.”
Canadian Armed Forces Air Force
Canadian Armed Forces Air Force veteran Dean Peach retired nearly a decade ago following injuries to his back that resulted in the fusing of two vertebras to repair the damage. Having worked in the fitness and logistic trades for 25 years until his medical release, the Greenwood, Nova Scotia resident continues to maintain his fitness through physical activities such as cycling, golfing, tennis and working with his family’s three horses.
“I enjoy riding my bike and doing rides that raise awareness for the injured soldiers that cannot do the rides for themselves,” Dean said. “I want to be able to ride alongside other soldiers that have been through some of the same challenges that I have been through.”
Having not participated in a long, multiday ride before the CanAm, Dean finds it “amazing” to ride from capital to capital, ending in Washington on July 4. “Doing it with other soldiers from another country will be great.”
A participant in other charitable rides in Canada, including a 190km one day ride in Nova Scotia called Boomer’s Legacy after an Afghanistan medic who died in service, Den reports he keeps busy.
U.S. Marine Corps
Marine Corps veteran David Santamore notes that he survived his military service in Vietnam, but in 2005, a vehicle broadsided his motorcycle. Losing his left leg above the knee as a result of the accident, he began hiking to re-establish his boundaries.
“I am reminded of the power of the human spirit to overcome obstacles,” David said, recalling his experience. “That if time is not an issue, virtually anyone can do virtually anything.”
Taking up cycling, the central Vermont resident began participating in many events, including World T.E.A.M. Sports’ annual Face of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg. In 2013, he traveled west to Colorado, where he participated in the Adventure Team Challenge on a five person team that included the organization’s then-CEO and President, Paul Tyler. David also participates in alpine and Nordic skiing, kayaking and wheelchair basketball. “I have been looking for a goal that I could get on fire for,” David reported about cycling. “I believe this is it.”
Seeing the CanAm as a step toward an invitation to cycle across North America with World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Sea to Shining Sea ride, David said the ride “will give me an opportunity to represent World T.E.A.M. Sports, American veterans, and to inspire others with life altering situations to rejoin life, fulfill their goals, and beyond.”
New Jersey native Jose Santiago joined the Army in 1999 and was stationed for seven years at Fort Carson, Colorado as a combat medic. During a tour in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 with the 3rd Armor Calvary Regiment, 2nd Squadron Heavy Company, Jose survived three ambushes. Owing to these experiences, he was medically discharged from the Army in June 2006.
Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury, Jose was hospitalized owing to his injuries. After discharge, he began cycling, pursued a degree in higher education and met his wife JoAnn. Together, they have had four children.
Considering his cycling to be of benefit both mentally and physically, Jose has participated in multiple events these last four years. “I have over 5,000 miles on my legs spinning, and did the Warrior 100K mountain bike ride with President George W. Bush in 2013,” Jose explains. “I love road biking and mountain biking as well; cycling has been a great therapy mentally and physically for me, I have been able to eliminate few of my medications due to riding.”
A participant in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Face of America bicycle ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg, Jose also has tried marathons. This June, in addition to the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, the Colorado resident is riding the state’s challenging Ride the Rockies. “My goal is to cross America on my road bike, do a half marathon, maybe a full marathon and learn how to swim and complete a triathlon.”
“I’m doing this ride because every ride is therapy for me; I get to ride with my brother and sister veterans and take our minds off things. I also get to see other parts of the world that I have not seen with my fellow veterans,” Jose said.
“After CanAm, I will be riding in Normandy, France for the first time ever in July. I will be training, too, and in doing so, I will have two of my dreams come true. One is to see one of the stages of Le Tour de France and the other is to be in Paris. Hopefully I will be able to participate in more events with World T.E.A.M. Sports – they have been amazing and great to me, my wife and my brother and sister veterans.”
Danish Army Sergeant Jens Sondergaard served with the United Nations in Croatia, where a June 1993 shot from a sniper paralyzed him from the chest down. Jens uses a wheelchair today and a Wolturnus hand cycle in sporting events.
Working at the Army Operational Command Denmark as a civilian, the Viborg, Denmark resident is active in cycling, marathons and swimming. In 2012 and 2013, Jens participated in the Marine Corps Marathon. In 2013, he rode the 7 day, 440 mile Ride4Rehab from Copenhagen to Skagen, Denmark. This April, he participated in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Face of America ride from the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia to Gettysburg.
Riding in the inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, Jens is doing so to “challenge myself and to show other veterans and wheelchair users everything is possible.”
“It is a great honor to be a part of the CanAm team,” Jens said. Planning to show the Danish flag side by side with the Canadian and American flags, Jens is looking forward to “making some new friends from Canada and America” during the two week ride.
This September, Jens will participate in the Berlin Marathon in Germany. He is hopeful of being selected to participate in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Sea to Shining Sea cross-country ride, tentatively planned for the summer of 2015.
An avid cyclist, endurance athlete and active duty member of the Canadian Air Force, Daniel Bodden is currently serving at the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria, BC Canada. The JRCC is the primary SAR distress call center for British Columbia and Yukon. Dan is the co-founder of the Wounded Warrior Run BC, a 6-day 600km (400 mile) relay run the length of Vancouver Island held in February 2014. The $25,000 raised by the event was awarded to Wounded Warriors Canada to promote the many excellent programs they provide as well as awareness of mental health issues everywhere.
An able-bodied athlete, Dan pondered the many hours of self-absorbed training required to compete in endurance sports and decided to help. Since the military often bears some of the largest physical and mental burdens of injury, he believes “we can be leaders in the healing and recovery process.” Dan has also lost friends serving in Afghanistan and the Canadian Arctic, and he honors their memory with this ride.
“I am doing the ride to support my injured brothers and sisters in uniform,” Dan said. “Be it a mental or physical injury, they deserve our help, support and respect.”
When not at work or riding his bike, Dan enjoys spending time with his wife Christine and 1 year old daughter Carson.
“When I get home from this ride, it will be time to start planning the Wounded Warrior Run 2015,” Dan explained. He hopes to expand mental health awareness into a national conversation in Canada.
Dean “Dino” Bruno
Dean “Dino” Bruno started his position with Long Island’s American Portfolios Financial Services shortly after the company was founded, in late 2001. He serves as COO for the full-service broker/dealer firm.
A participant in many outdoor sporting events, Dean reports these include 22 marathons – including six Boston Marathons – and four Face of America rides from the Pentagon to Gettysburg.
The Yaphank, New York resident is a member of the Infinitri triathlon team, and will complete in his first triathlon in June, 2014. “I enjoy cycling, running, swimming and reading when time presents itself,” Dean said.
Married to his wife Cathy and living with three adopted American Foxhounds, Dean is ready for the two week CanAm Veterans’ Challenge. “I’m looking forward to helping my fellow able bodied and challenged athlete teammates cycle to Washington, D.C.”
A participant of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Face of America ride for the past six years, Jim Campbell also rode one week of the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea cross-country bicycle ride, the segment across the Rockies from Salt Lake City to Denver.
The East Moriches, New York resident reports that his wife Debbie participated with him in the 2014 Face of America, riding the 110 miles in two days from the Pentagon to Gettysburg with injured veterans.
Noting that “every World T.E.A.M. Sports event has been inspiring for me,” Jim said he is “excited and honored to be riding in the CanAm Challenge.”
“I would like to dedicate my ride to Mr. Frank Bitonti, a Vietnam vet injured in combat,” Jim said. “Frank was a good friend who passed in 2012.”
Michael Cavanaugh, an entrepreneurial, retail hardware store owner on Long Island has been engaged in World T.E.A.M. Sports for six years. Having ridden the Face of America from the Pentagon to Gettysburg since 2009, he’s witnessed the value of camaraderie, support, and determination. He believes the friendships and alliances that have grown from, and been strengthened through these rides, are par none. Mike’s enjoyed serving as a rider on the 2012 tail end of the Sea to Shining Sea and this year is pleased to ride from Ottawa, Canada in the inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge.
An avid bike rider from an early age, Mike has always enjoyed the experience of riding with others who enjoy exploring the countryside in this unique way. His hardware stores serves a small community on the East End of Long Island and is seen by many in that community as a gathering spot for news and updates. Mike can always be counted on by local school leaders, service organizations, and community members for his generous contributions which aid the community.
“I am looking forward joining in on the first leg of this to help share challenge of the ride with veterans from Canada and the United States,” Mike said. “Having never served in the military the rides that I have joined in on in the past have helped me gain a greater understanding of those who have.”
Mike is interested in encouraging greater participation of World T.E.A.M. Sports events and support of the CanAm ride. “I look forward to encouraging more ‘able bodied’ people to join in and support those with challenges and grow from the experience,” he said. He also encourages World T.E.A.M. Sports “to host more events that are challenging but with a time commitment that will allow greater participation with goal of affecting more lives.”
Riding the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge with veteran Larry Gunter as the tandem pilot, Robert Clayton is a frequent participant in World T.E.A.M. Sports events. Having ridden in several Face of America rides from the Pentagon to Gettysburg, Robert rode segments of the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea cross-country ride, where he met Larry.
“I have been great friends [with Larry] ever since,” Robert said. “It is an honor for me to be his tandem pilot on the CanAm ride.”
As a team member with American Portfolios Financial Services, Robert, his wife and two sons joined the company’s team for the Face of America rides beginning in 2009. Robert also has served as a coach for the developmentally-disabled teams at the Adventure Team Challenge New York in the Catskill Mountains.
Robert’s participation in the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea honored his brother Jon, who was killed in a helicopter accident during training maneuvers in Nevada with the US Marine Corps in 1981. “My parents never recovered from the loss of my brother,” Robert said. “I can’t imagine what that must have felt like to lose a child. For me, Jon’s death has colored my life to appreciate every day. I don’t dwell on him being gone.”
Following the conclusion of the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, Robert and Larry will prepare for their next sporting challenge. “We have been training to compete in a 140.6 mile Iron Man event,” explained Robert. “The CanAm event will be just the ticket to get us ready.”
Lon Dolber is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of American Portfolios, a firm he founded in September 2001. Lon has over 34 years’ experience as a financial service professional combining financial product and services knowledge with a strong technological and operational background.
In addition, Lon serves as American Portfolios’ Chief Information Officer, providing leadership and strategic thinking to the business challenge of using technology to provide service and support to the firm’s financial service professionals.
Following his participation in the 2007 Return to Kilimanjaro expedition from World T.E.A.M. Sports, in which seven developmentally disabled athletes successfully climbed African’s highest mountain, Lon became active in other events with the non-profit. Serving on the organization’s Board of Directors, Lon created the Adventure Team Challenge New York in 2010, based upon his experience as a participant in the Adventure Team Challenge Colorado in 2008.
In 2009, Lon participated in the Coastal Team Challenge from World T.E.A.M. Sports, in which participating injured veterans from Canada and the United States traveled 82 nautical miles by sea kayak from Anacortes, Washington through Puget Sound to Vancouver, British Columbia. Inspired by his participation, Lon is adapting the Challenge for a second running this August, this time along New York’s Long Island, with developmentally disabled athletes.
A member of Long Island’s Filthy Crickets rock and roll band, Lon is a strong supporter of World T.E.A.M. Sports and its inclusive sporting events. Though a natural leader, Lon prefers to serve as a facilitator, rather than be someone who is singled out for praise or attention. “As a trained salesman, I’m very good at convincing people to do things they would never have considered doing before—like climbing a mountain or riding bicycles cross country with wounded warriors,” he said.
Raleigh, North Carolina resident Vaughna Galvin is a frequent participant in World T.E.A.M. Sports events. Riding in several Face of America rides from the Pentagon to Gettysburg, Vaughna reports she is familiar with military veterans and the issues they face.
“I come from a family of Marines and have worked closely with veterans as a nurse anesthetist on Cherry Point,” she explained.
Riding in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, Vaughna believes she can be of assistance to the veterans as they make their way from capital to capital.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to spend two weeks on a World T.E.A.M. Sports event with true heroes.”
Serving as the pilot for veteran Steve Baskis, Victor Henderson served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and six years in the U.S. Navy. Tandem cycling is still rather new to the Madison, Wisconsin resident, only being introduced to it when asked to by Steve to serve as his pilot for the April, 2014 Face of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg. Working well as a tandem team, Victor agreed to join Steve at the US Paralympic cycling development camp in Colorado Springs and for the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge.
Looking forward to the upcoming CanAm, Victor sees the capital to capital journey as a means to increase awareness of the difficulties injured veterans face and the incredible capabilities they have to accomplish tasks. “Injured and challenged veterans can still get out and enjoy the outdoors,” Victor explained. “There is a ton of support out there for them.”
Following the conclusion of the CanAm, Victor explains that he intends to continue being active in outdoor sports. “I plan to continue piloting,” he said. “I would love to get something started that would allow those that are visually impaired the ability to experience a ride on a tandem, be it racing or just casual riding.”
A Smithtown, New York resident and father of three, Frank Ocello has served the financial community and navigated the ever-changing financial landscape for 27 years. In 2010, he joined the growing ranks of independent Financial Advisors by aligning himself with American Portfolios Financial Services, where he quickly learned of their support for World T.E.A.M. Sports.
Frank was attached to the 69th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 514 Military Airlift Wing during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. He is also a graduate of the Community College of the Air Force and Kemper Military College in Boonville, Missouri. With this background, the choice to support World T.E.A.M. Sports was simple.
Over the last four years, Frank has participated in several World T.E.A.M. Sports events; 2012 Sea to Shining Sea, where he rode a 550 mile leg from Salt Lake City, Utah to Denver, Colorado; and the 2011, 2013, and 2014 Face of America rides from the Pentagon to Gettysburg. He now is riding the 2014 CanAm ride, from Ottawa, Canada to Washington, DC, a distance of 766 miles.
“It is an honor and a privilege to participate in these events with men and women who have freely chosen to serve their country, and a reminder that the road to freedom has been paved by the dedication of millions of men and women who have come before us,” said Frank.