Tag Archives: United States

Veterans, riders receive warm greeting

By Nicole A. Elliott, Rome Sentinel

June 24, 2014 Rome, New York – “Welcome to Rome!”

Bystanders adorned in patriotic red, white and blue, some waving American flags and flashing signs, shouted cheers of encouragement and good wishes as about 27 injured veterans and supporters cycled down West Chestnut Street Monday afternoon.

Rome was among the several small-town stops on a 14-day bicycle trip from Canada to Washington, D.C. by the team of veterans representing three countries — the United States, Canada and Denmark.

Welcoming poster in Rome.
A welcoming poster greeted riders as they arrived in Rome, New York. Photograph courtesy Rome Sentinel.

They were treated to a spaghetti dinner by Rome Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and then enjoyed a hot shower and comfortable bed overnight at the Wingate Hotel at Griffiss Business and Technology Park.

The contingent included 16 injured veterans biking with nine able-bodied riders, also accompanied by support staff in some vehicles, according to the World T.E.A.M. Sports organization, which coordinated the event. The nearly 800-mile trip was geared to build awareness and provide inspiration.

Participants include veterans who served in Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Among their disabilities are loss of limb, paralysis, post-traumatic stress, brain injuries, and blindness in some cases.

Two able-bodied riders are serving as pilots for blind veterans using tandem bicycles, according to World T.E.A.M. Sports.

“The ride does two things: It provides people with disabilities the opportunity to participate in an athletic event of this magnitude and it allows communities to observe people with disabilities and highlights the fact that their disabilities could be merely nuisances and can easily be overcome,” said World T.E.A.M. Chief Executive Officer Van Brinson.

Read the full story at the Rome Sentinel website.

Wounded veterans bike through the north country en route to D.C.

by Steve Virkler, Johnson Newspapers

June 24, 2014, Lowville, New York – A group of about 25 bicyclists — including 16 injured American, Canadian and Danish veterans — passed through Jefferson and Lewis counties this week as part of a nearly 800-mile ride from Ottawa to Washington, D.C.

Courtney Chambliss and Dean Peach.
CanAm Veterans’ Challenge staff member Courtney Chambliss gives the thumbs up while she and Canadian veteran Dean Peach ride through downtown Lowville on June 23. Photograph courtesy Steve Virkler, Johnson Newspapers.

“It’s awesome,” said Jose Santiago of Colorado, a former Army combat medic who served two tours in Iraq, during a stop for rest and cellphone pictures in Lowville on Monday, the fourth day of the inaugural, 14-day CanAm Veterans’ Challenge.

“You can’t ask for better weather,” said fellow Colorado resident Scott Bates.

Mr. Bates, a Navy veteran, said in a release before the ride that he looked at the event as a way to recover from his service-related injuries. “Cycling itself can even be looked at as a metaphor,” he said. “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.”

The group, which departed from the steps of the Canadian Parliament on Friday morning, stayed overnight Sunday at the Holiday Inn in Watertown after eating at the Ponderosa Steakhouse, according to Richard Rhinehart, director of communications for World T.E.A.M. Sports, Holbrook, which is organizing the ride.

Read the full story at the Watertown Daily Times web site.

Scott Bates, Harry Carr and Jose Santiago.
From left, Colorado veteran Scott Bates , New Hampshire veteran Harry Carr and Colorado veteran Jose Santiago pause for a moment in downtown Lowville on June 23. Photograph courtesy Steve Virkler, Johnson Newspapers.


Dan Bodden, Harry Carr, Marina Libro, Scott Bates and Jose Santiago.
A group of CanAm Veterans’ Challenge riders gather in Lowville, New York, on route to Rome. From left, British Columbia veteran Dan Bodden, New Hampshire veteran Harry Carr, Virginia veteran Marina Libro, Virginia, and Colorado veterans Scott Bates and Jose Santiago. Photograph courtesy Steve Virkler, Johnson Newspapers.

Follow the Riders Daily

By Richard Rhinehart

June 20, 2014, Perth, Ontario – Interested in cheering on the riders of the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge as they ride through your community? Or are you an armchair supporter who is following the June 20 through July 4 ride from the comfort of your office or home? Either way, World T.E.A.M. Sports is providing online GPS tracking of the team as they ride the nearly 800 miles from Ottawa to Washington.

Sample SPOT tracking map.
A section of the SPOT GPS tracking map from the first day of tracking the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge.

Through the use of modern satellite technology, World T.E.A.M. Sports has created a shared tracking page for the three SPOT GPS trackers used by riders in the 2014 CanAm Veterans’ Challenge. The tracking page includes regularly updated locations for the three units, keyed to a Google map showing the location.

On the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge tracking site, you can see locations of the three GPS units represented by different colored dots on the map. These locations are automatically updated every ten minutes. The three tracking units show the approximate location of the team, with one unit at the front of the group, another at the end and the third somewhere in the middle.

SPOT Tracking LogoAn additional feature of the provided Google map is the built-in Google Street View feature, which allows the user to drag and drop the little man icon onto the road, and see the terrain the riders are currently passing. It’s almost if you are riding along with the team.

The units will be active each day during the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, excepting the rest days. Tracking information will remain online from past daily rides for seven days.

Track the riders now!

Special Tandem Cycle Symbolic Representation of Freedom

By Richard Rhinehart

Ottawa, Ontario, June 19, 2014 – When Army veteran Steve Baskis and Victor Henderson set off from Canada’s Parliament June 20 at the start of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ 800 mile CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, they’ll be riding a unique road tandem provided by New York’s Swett Warriors.

Steve, an Army veteran blinded during a May, 2008 attack in Baghdad, is a self-described “adrenaline junkie” who is active in outdoor sports, including mountaineering, rock climbing, white water rafting and cycling. Owing to his loss of vision, he relies on his pilot, Victor, to pilot the tandem.

Steve Baskis and Victor Henderson Face of America finish.
Steve Baskis and Victor Henderson (second tandem from right) ride the “Freedom” tandem at the conclusion of World T.E.A.M. Sports’ April 2014 Face of America ride in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Photograph by Richard Rhinehart.

The bike was presented to Steve on June 15, 2013 in Elk Grove Village, Illinois in a presentation by Swett Warriors that included veterans and local riders. “I was warned of some surprise, but truly had no idea the gift would be a brand new set of wheels,” Steve recalled.

“There is a lot of symbolism behind it,” Victor reported of the tandem. In addition to the US Army logo and patriotic red, white and blue colors representing the United States and freedom, the bike includes the name of Staff Sergeant Victor “Chiko” Cota, who was mortally wounded in combat in the same 2008 attack that forever changed Steve’s life. The bike also includes the names of Manuel and Mireyaaime, Victor Cota’s children. Steve notes this represents the sacrifices made by military families.

“I feel all that and so much more when someone describes what the tandem bike’s paint job looks like,” Steve said.

Steve participated in World T.E.A.M. SportsSoldiers to the Summit climb of 20,075-foot Lobuche East in Nepal in October, 2010. This Military Initiative event was documented in Michael Brown’s 2012 film, “High Ground,” released by Stone Circle Films. Steve also has climbed Africa’s Kilimanjaro, Mexico’s Ixtaccíhuatl and Yosemite’s Half Dome. He also is active in skiing, kayaking, white water rafting, sky diving, hunting and archery.

The "Freedom" tandem bicycle.
The “Freedom” tandem bicycle, presented to Steve Baskis by Swett Warriors in 2013. Photograph courtesy Steve Baskis.

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.

Fellowship Between Nations Highlights Inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge Ride

By Richard Rhinehart

Washington, DC, June 9, 2014 – For 18 days beginning June 20, 16 injured Canadian, Danish and American veterans will ride bicycles, hand cycles and recumbent bikes on a 766-mile journey from Ottawa, Ontario to Washington, D.C., a capital to capital ride from non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Joined by nine able-bodied riders, the veterans in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge will pedal south through one province and three states, traveling from 10 to 90 miles each day. Riding through urban and suburban communities, the team will pass through farmland, forests, and mountains, ride across mighty rivers, and meet Americans from all walks of life. Arriving in America’s capital on Independence Day, the team will experience the celebration of liberty, and gain new perspectives on teamwork, friendship and cooperation between allies.

Army Veteran Steve Baskis
Blind Army veteran Steve Baskis, who climbed Nepal’s Lobuche with World T.E.A.M. Sports in October 2010, will be riding a tandem with pilot Victor Henderson. (Photograph courtesy Steve Baskis.)

Developed by World T.E.A.M. Sports, a national non-profit that creates inclusive sporting events for able-bodied and disabled persons, the CanAm offers a unique opportunity for veterans to remain physically fit and to create new support networks they lost after leaving active service. In addition, the public can better comprehend the remarkable dedication and determination of persons with disabilities through the ride.

Major Richard Desjardins.
Major Richard Desjardins has actively served with the Canadian Armed Forces since 1974. He will be riding as a member of the team. (Photograph courtesy Major Richard Desjardins.)

For each participating veteran, life changed with their injuries. Seeing duty in wars and conflicts from Vietnam to Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan, these men and women now live with injuries and conditions ranging from blindness to Post Traumatic Stress to paralysis to amputation. Outdoor physical activities such as cycling can literally be a life-saver.

A veteran who rode across America in World T.E.A.M. SportsSea to Shining Sea ride, Van Brinson, the non-profit’s CEO and President, recognizes the powerful nature of long rides between injured veterans and able-bodied riders. “World T.E.A.M. Sports is proud to have the opportunity to work across borders with a country who has shared in our sacrifices,” Brinson said. “The inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge provides a unique opportunity for service members from both sides of the border to ride together and demonstrate the camaraderie that exists between our nations.”

Participating injured veterans include Robert Bidder (Canada); Richard Desjardins (Canada); Mike Cotts (Canada); Michael Fuentespina (Canada); Dean Peach (Canada); Steven Baskis (USA); Scott Bates (USA); Harry Carr (USA); Marc Gabiger (USA); Larry Gunter (USA); Jeff Henson (USA); Christopher Levi (USA); Marina Libro (USA); David Santamore (USA); Jose Santiago (USA); and Jens Sondergaard (Denmark). Able-bodied riders accompanying the team include Daniel Bodden (Canada); Dean Bruno (USA); James Campbell (USA); Michael Cavanaugh (USA); Robert Clayton (USA); Lon Dolber (USA); Vaughna Galvin (USA); Frank Ocello (USA); and Victor Henderson (USA).

Marina Libro.
Army Master Sergeant Marina Libro of Virginia retired in 2011. She participated in the last three Face of America rides from World T.E.A.M. Sports and will be riding the inaugural CanAm. (Photograph courtesy Marina Libro.)

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.

About World T.E.A.M. Sports

World T.E.A.M. Sports is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization chartered in North Carolina and headquartered in Holbrook, New York. Since 1993, World T.E.A.M. Sports has organized athletic events for disabled and able bodied citizens – mountain climbing, white water rafting, biking, and more. Four things always happen at our events: (1) Disabled participants build self-confidence and physical fitness; (2) The disabled provide a role model for other disabled citizens, encouraging them to take up physical activities; (3) The disabled become a moving inspiration to other participants and to spectators when they see that disabled individuals can meet challenges beyond anyone’s imagination; and (4) The disabled and able-bodied participants learn to work as a team to overcome those challenges. World T.E.A.M. Sports changes lives through sports.

Canadian Team at the 2013 Face of America ride.
The team of Canadian riders complete the 2013 Face of America ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The 2014 CanAm ride will spend an evening in this southern Pennsylvania city. (Photograph by Richard Rhinehart.)