Tag Archives: CanAm Veterans’ Challenge

Inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge Bicycle Ride with Injured Veterans to Inspire

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.

Army veteran Steve Baskis.
Army veteran Steve Baskis lost his sight in Iraq. Yet, he is active in outdoor sports, including rock climbing. Photograph courtesy of Steve Baskis.

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.”

Veteran Michael Fuentespina.
Canadian Armed Forces veteran Michael Fuentespina completed tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Photograph courtesy Michael Fuentespina.

“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.

Bob Clayton and veteran Larry Gunter.
Bob Clayton, left, will serve as the pilot for blind veteran Larry Gunter of Alabama. Photograph courtesy Bob Clayton.

Santiago and Bremer Ride the Rockies

Jose Santiago on Loveland Pass.
Army veteran Jose Santiago holds his bike above his head at the Loveland Pass summit west of Denver. Santiago completed the six-day, 471-mile ride on June 13. Photograph courtesy Jose Santiago.

Golden, Colorado, June 14, 2014 – Retired World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Paul “Jerry” Bremer and CanAm Veterans’ Challenge participant Jose Santiago are exceptionally fit cyclists. Yet, the 471 mile, six mountain pass, 28,265 feet total elevation gain of Colorado’s Ride the Rockies bicycle ride proved to be quite the challenge.

Departing the Boulder on June 7, and finishing in nearby Golden on June 13, the popular ride attracted the maximum 2,000 participants. The group toured some of Colorado’s most spectacular high country during their journey, crossing Berthoud, Rabbit Ears, Tennessee and Loveland Passes, and spending evenings camping in Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, Avon and Breckenridge.

Paul "Jerry" Bremer and Jose Santiago.
Retired World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Paul “Jerry” Bremer (left) and Army veteran Jose Santiago stand together prior to the start of the fourth day’s Steamboat Springs to Avon stage of Ride the Rockies. Photograph courtesy Paul Bremer.

The Rockies are no stranger to Jose, an Army veteran raised in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico and now living in Centennial, Colorado. Training for the upcoming CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, Jose often tours routes through the mountains west of Denver.

Jerry also rode through the Rockies in 2010, as a member of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Sea to Shining Sea cross-country ride. Yet, the multiple passes and constant climbing of the Ride the Rockies was a challenge.

“[It was] quite a hard week of riding,” Jerry said after completing the ride. An unexpected challenge for the riders was on the ride’s first day, an 89-mile trek from Boulder to Winter Park, crossing Berthoud Pass. At the summit of the 11,315-foot pass on the Continental Divide, the riders were met with winter riding conditions, including wind, driving snow and freezing temperatures. “I got up the pass ten minutes before they closed the descent,” recalled Jerry. “Then had to wait in the ‘warming hut’ for several hours to be sagged with several hundred others down to Winter Park. It was quite a day.”

Meeting Jose for the first time at the Boulder, Colorado American Legion Hall June 6, Jerry reports they saw each other frequently during the ride. Both have participated in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ annual Face of America bicycle ride from Washington to Gettysburg, though on separate years.

Calling Jerry a “great gentleman,” Jose reports he has “over 5,000 miles on my legs spinning” these last four years. Following the conclusion of the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge in Washington DC July 4, Jose has a busy schedule. “I will be riding in Normandy France for the first time ever in July,” he said. “I will have two of my dreams come true, see one of the stages of Le Tour de France and be in Paris.”

As for the future, Jose has interest in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ Sea to Shining Sea ride, tentatively scheduled for 2015. Jerry has already completed that cross-country journey.

Talking with Heroes to Feature Veterans Brinson, Levi and Santamore

Ottawa, Ontario, June 11, 2014 – Marine veteran and World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Van Brinson will be a featured guest on the June 19 edition of Talking with Heroes,  a Blog Talk Radio program.

Van Brinson
World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Van Brinson. Photograph courtesy Van Brinson.

Joining Brinson will be Army veteran Christopher Levi and Marine veteran David Santamore. Both veterans are participants of the inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, an 18 day, 766 mile bicycle, recumbent and hand cycle ride from Ottawa to Washington, D.C. from non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Christopher Levi
Veteran Christopher Levi. Photograph courtesy Christopher Levi.

The 9 p.m. Eastern Time program is hosted by Andy LaPointe and will be available by online podcast following the live broadcast. The program is currently featuring interviews with leaders with the R4 Alliance, a non-profit organization that provides a collaborative approach enhancing research, training, and standards of excellence through focused therapeutic and community recreation programs. World T.E.A.M. Sports is a member of this national organization.

David Santamore
Marine veteran David Santamore served in Vietnam. Photograph courtesy David Santamore.

A participant of World T.E.A.M. Sports‘ 2010 Sea to Shining Sea cross-country bicycle ride with injured veterans, Brinson is directing the non-profit’s CanAm Veterans’ Challenge featuring 16 injured veterans from Canada, the United States and Denmark. Beginning in Ottawa June 20 and finishing in Washington D.C. on July 4, the ride also includes nine able-bodied riders, two being pilots for blind veterans.

Levi was severely injured during his service in Iraq, losing both legs above the knee and injuring his hand. Santamore, a Vietnam veteran, lost his left leg above the knee in a motorcycle accident. Both are past participants in World T.E.A.M. Sports events, including the annual Face of America bicycle ride from the Pentagon to historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Brinson previously was a guest on Talking with Heroes in August 2013, appearing with former Marine colleague Major Jennifer Marino, who was inspired to ride across America by bicycle by Brinson’s 2010 Sea to Shining Sea ride.