Injured soldiers will take a bike ride through the Chicago area Friday and Saturday to raise awareness for wounded warriors across the nation.
The soldiers will spread awareness and show off their physical capabilities after war injuries in the Soldier Ride organized by the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization providing programs for injured service members.
Soldier Ride, presented by Geico, is a cycling event that provides a unique way to honor the men and women of the military battling the physical and psychological damages of war.
Twenty-eight injured veteran will take a 25-mile bike ride through Chicago Friday beginning at the #42 Chicago Fire Department Engine at 55 West Illinois St. and finish in Highland Park at the #33 Fire Department 1130 Central Avenue.
Pete Cataldo, public relations coordinator for Wounded Warrior, said the ride will take approximately two and a half hours to complete. The event is geared to help restore the physical and emotional well-being of warriors of all ability levels at no cost to the warriors he said.
Injured warriors were outfitted 35 state-of-the-art adaptive hand cycles, trikes and bicycles Wednesday. They are scheduled begin their ride to the Chicago area Thursday in Kenosha, Wis. followed by a Chicago area ride Friday and finishing up Saturday with a ride through the Chicago Forrest Preserve at Bulfrog Lake at 11 a.m.
The Director of Soldier Ride, Dan Schnock, said through taking part in the ride, soldiers are put into their “new normal” that allows them establish new adaptive methods to get them back to doing the things they used to do.
“Soldier Ride is an adaptive sports program that allows wounded soldiers to do the things they did as a kid,” said Schnock.
He said the ride helps rehabilitate soldiers in four ways: engaging other wounded warriors, mind, body and economic empowerment.
“To me, it gives them a chance to be back in their platoon,” said Schnock. It gives them socialization and team work he said.
While Soldier Ride participation is only open to the Wounded Warrior members, Cataldo said public support matters to the injured vets.
“Some of them [wounded warriors] are getting on a bike for the first time so the public support helps.” He said when people line the streets and root the soldiers on, it really builds their confidence.
Schnock said Wounded Warrior's economic empowerment initiative marries members of the project with companies like Snap-On who kicked off the ride to the Chicago area Thursday with a ceremony and breakfast for the veterans. He said Soldier Ride has 14 rides per year, but most injured warriors love the Chicago and New York Ride.
“It must be the Chicago pizza,” he said.
Soldier Ride began in 2004 after civilian Chris Carney completed a coast-to-coast bike ride raising more than $1 million for injured soldiers. The following year combat-wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan joined Carney on the coast-to-coast ride garnering more public attention.
Wounded Warrior, headquartered in Jacksonville Fla. has an Oak brook Ill. office that serves the Chicago area. They offer wounded warriors physical health and wellness and nutritional support. Wounded Warrior alumni also meet with warriors to ensure soldiers are receiving their veteran benefits.
“The best part about the organization is that it truly does give warriors the chance to rehabilitate and it truly honors and empowers those warriors,” said Schnock.