Monday, April 26, 2010
Anything is possible, part II
For the fourth year, I was fortunate to volunteer at the Face of America ride, a 110 mile bike ride from Washington, D.C. to historic Gettysburg. This year, there were close to 400 riders, which included close to 70 wounded warriors. All branches of the military were well represented, as well as civilians and other disabled athletes.
While this is not my first, and certainly not my last year, I remain humbled by the determination and stamina of our wounded warriors. Many of the warriors ride recumbent bikes, relying on just their upper body strength to power them across the many miles and ruthless hills. Since this is a ride and not a race, everyone works together to make it from one point to the other. Every rider who is able will help out those who are struggling.
I, along with Melissa, Teresa, Lynda, Meghan and Mike, had the pleasure of assisting our wounded warriors at the various rest stops. We transported their wheelchairs to each rest stop, so the riders could take a break from being on their bikes. We made sure they had anything they needed, whether it was something to drink or eat, rain ponchos, or just assistance getting to their wheelchairs. Whatever they needed, we were there. A special shout out to our navigators: Meghan, Lynda and Mike. Without your wonderful sense of direction and mad map reading skills, we were able to arrive at each location well ahead of the riders and have their wheelchairs ready. Thank you also to "my girls" Abby and Rachel. These lovely young ladies jumped right in and were able to assist us in so many ways. Whether it was helping us through a hectic registration, assisting in the care of Willie (one of the rider's service dog) or helping to distribute food at the rest stops, these gals were fantastic.
On a ride this long, you get to know the riders. Many are familiar faces from years past, many are new. It is wonderful seeing old friends and making new ones. Once you participate in this event, whether as a rider or volunteer, you cannot help but look forward to the next one. The ride grows in number each year, as does the pageantry. I cannot imagine the amount of man hours that go into planning and executing such an event, yet it runs almost seamlessly each year.
It is the final moments of the ride that pull at your heartstrings. All the riders gather together to arrive at the same time. The recumbent bikes lead the way, making their way the final few feet, while crowds cheer them on, as a majestic American flag waves them all in, perched high atop the ladder of a firetruck. Banners with notes of encouragement and gratitude have greeted our riders every step of the way, from the starting point, at every rest stop and then at the very end. Emotions run high; admiration, respect and pride are just a few felt by both the riders and spectators.
I encourage all to do what you can to be a part of this extraordinary event. If you can give of yourself for just a bit, more if you're able, you will be amazed, humbled and deeply touched by the perseverance of our wounded military servicemen and women who participate, who show us once more, anything is possible...