Nearly 150 cyclists set out on a miles-long ride through San Diego County Saturday to raise awareness for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and combat-related injuries.
Civilian riders and more than 60 Healing Heroes, or veterans dealing with PTSD and other physical and mental barriers, took on 20, 40 and 60-mile courses spanning through San Diego County.
Project Hero organizes about 15 Honor Rides in major cities across the country every year, and chose to start and finish it’s first ever Honor Ride San Diego at Balboa Park.
“It’s our first time in San Diego,” Honor Ride National Director Jack Shepard said. “It’s obviously a huge military town. We’ve gotten a lot of support out here.”
For the first time in Honor Ride history, Project Hero allowed members of the public to pedal alongside our nation’s Healing Heroes. Together, the riders have raised about $15,000.
Once on their bikes, men and women that sacrificed for our country get to forget about outside noise for a while and focus on the course.
“We’ve found that when you’re on a bike you have to focus on that ride,” Shepard said. “It takes people out of that pit of PTSD for a short time and then they realize, ‘Wow, that’s probably the first relief I’ve had from my PTSD in-‘ they can’t remember how long.”
Continued riding brings a sense of relief few non-veterans can understand or relate to. Shepard gets it. He joined Project Hero, then Ride to Recovery, after breaking his knee cap as a soldier with the U.S. Army.
“That feeling of focus on regular things becomes the norm and the PTSD becomes the background,” he said. “It never quite goes away, but the cycling makes all the difference in the world.”
He says the non-profit recently rebranded under the name Project Hero to make it less about the bike rides and more about the veteran services provided at Project Hero hubs across the country.
The hubs help our Healing Heroes with things like job coaching and resume writing, and bring further awareness to veteran issues like homeless and joblessness. Shepard says there are nearly 60 hubs in the United States.
Project Hero also builds custom adaptive bikes for disabled veterans.
The next Honor Ride will get into gear in May in Sacramento. Shepard says Project Hero is expecting somewhere between 500 and 600 riders.