Tag Archives: World T.E.A.M. Sports

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.

Cycling Brings Together Veterans

Veterans David Santamore and Harry Carr.
Veterans David Santamore (left) and Harry Carr at the 2014 Face of America ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports. Photograph courtesy Harry Carr.

By Richard Rhinehart

Ottawa, Ontario, June 16, 2014 – For two participants of the inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, the two week ride to Washington, D.C. from Ottawa beginning this Friday from the steps of Parliament offers an opportunity to build upon a growing friendship with each other, and with other Canadian, American and Danish veterans.

Harry Carr at the Adventure Team Challenge.
At the 2013 Adventure Team Challenge in Colorado, Harry Carr rode his first upright mountain bike in many years. Photograph by Brian Gliba.

Located 80 miles apart by Interstate Highway 89, Air Force veteran Harry Carr, and Marine Corps veteran David Santamore both live in small New England communities. David’s home town, Barre, Vermont, is the larger of the two, with 9,052 residents. To the south, 4,397 residents call New London, New Hampshire home, including Harry. During the 13 days of riding in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, Harry and David will ride the equivalent of the distance between their homes three days.

Owing to a service connected neurological condition, Harry has impaired eyesight, and rides a recumbent bicycle. David rides a hand cycle after suffering an above the knee amputation after being hit by a motorist while riding his motorcycle in 2005.

Seeking “to inspire others with life altering situations to rejoin life, fulfill their goals, and beyond,” David sees the CanAm as an opportunity to prepare for upcoming sporting challenges, including a potential invitation to the Sea to Shining Sea cross-country bicycle ride from the non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports.

David Santamore at the 2013 Adventure Team Challenge.
At the 2013 Adventure Team Challenge from World T.E.A.M. Sports, veteran David Santamore rode a tandem mountain bike with the organization’s then-CEO Paul Tyler. Photograph by Brian Gliba.

Harry also is interested in participating in the cross-country journey, tentatively scheduled for 2015. “The CanAm ride is very encouraging to me and I hope to encourage other veterans to participate in cycling events and to continue the esprit de corps among all of our riders,” Harry said.

Having participated in two Face of America rides from World T.E.A.M. Sports, the two veterans also competed in the 2013 Adventure Team Challenge in Colorado. They also participated in the 2013 and 2014 National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinics.

“I have not driven a vehicle for more than ten years,” Harry explained. “In addition to the new freedom that recumbent cycling has given me, it has also given me more confidence in myself and I feel a lot healthier.”

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.

Danish Army Veteran Jens Sondergaard Ready to Ride

Jens Sondergaard.
Danish Army veteran Jens Sondergaard at Army headquarters. Photograph courtesy Jens Sondergaard.

Ottawa, Ontario, June 13, 2014 – In addition to the Canadian and American veterans riding in the inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge, Danish Army veteran Jens Sondergaard is traveling from Denmark to Ottawa for the 18 day ride between capitals.

Jens explains that the Danish flag on his hand cycle in this image is special. “It has been running on two sled teams of Greenland with the Danish Sirius Patrol,” Jens reports. “I will be riding with the flag the last ten miles in Washington at the 4th of July.”

Jens rode with World T.E.A.M. Sports at the Face of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg in late April 2014, so this will be his second event with the national non-profit organization.

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.)