Monday, May 28, 2007

World T.E.A.M. Sports 2007

World T.E.A.M. (The Exceptional Athlete Matters) Sports, Face of America bike ride to honor our wounded soldiers was a huge success!!!!!! So far $103,000.00 has been raised for this event! The monies collected paid for “all the costs of the active duty participants, including accommodations, food, outreach, providing usage of bikes, cycling clinics, and all other costs associated with the ride”. This ride was “an opportunity to welcome these disabled servicemen and women, and able-bodied servicemen and women, as teammates and show them how much we appreciate their efforts”. The funds also covered the cost of “flying severely injured servicemen in from all over the country, including a group from Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and discharged severely injured servicemen from various places across the country.” It was an honor to participate in this event. Many, many thanks to those of you who were able to contribute by sponsoring me and Nick. We truly appreciate everyone’s support of our servicemen and women and the support and encouragement we received from all of you.

There were people representing all factions of our military. Some of the wounded were above knee amputees, below knee amputees, an upper extremity (arm) amputee, paraplegics who road recumbent trikes with arm controls, and others with other various injuries. We met Artie, who is a 63 year old Vietnam veteran who was shot in the chest, arm & abdomen. He recovered well but later developed MS (Multiple Sclerosis). He lives in Denver and this was the first ride of the year for him! Artie is an old Army Ranger so it was easy to strike up a conversation with him by telling him our son is an Army Ranger too. He showed us photos of himself and other soldiers prior to his injuries. He is probably the most positive, upbeat man I have ever met. People literally gravitate to him. He is an amazingly positive role model for all of us.

A young man we met was in a humvee that was hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) and he suffered a lot of soft tissue damage and a badly fractured left leg. He had an external fixation device on his leg to hold the fragments in place and to help new bone to grow. And he had a lot of skin grafts in various places on his body. A man came with a recumbent tandem leg bike and asked if there was a soldier who would like to ride with him and the young soldier accepted his offer. He really enjoyed his ride and said he would like to do it again next year! And that was after the bike pedal hit the ex-fixator on his leg! He also told us all about the many kind people who come to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He said professional sports stars from Baltimore and Washington DC teams come in just to tell the soldiers “thank you” and to offer their support. He spoke about one man who comes by nearly every weekend just to take 2, 3 or 4 guys to ball games. He also told us about Soldier’s Angels and all the support they give the wounded veterans. He said this event was wonderful for him and other men because of “all of the positive energy.” He really appreciated having us thank him for his service to our country.

Dylan is all of nine years of age and he has the heart of a lion, and unbelievable determination and perseverance. Dylan’s brother, PFC Geoffrey Morris USMC, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Dylan’s dad drove him here from Illinois in their motor home. It broke down on the way and they had to rent a van. But they made it and Dylan did this entire ride on his mountain bike! The guys put his seat up high to give him a little more leverage. Dylan huffed and puffed up the hills of Pennsylvania and Maryland, determined to finish! Nick and I were incredibly impressed with Dylan. I met his dad at the end of the race and complemented him on his terrific son.

A group of Marines rode together, all dressed in red shirts. One they called Doc was an above knee amputee. Imagine trying to ride a bike with a prosthetic knee! One of the men with an above knee prostheses had it come loose during the ride. He was walking around with it hanging loosely on his remaining limb at a rest stop before re-donning it. Another above knee amputee was so tired after the first day that he just managed to get his cot set up, take off his leg and then crash onto his cot into a fitful sleep, right after arriving at Frederick Community College. He must have been extremely exhausted!

It was inspirational to watch the men work together. The guys on the recumbent arm bikes and the two on the tandem recumbent leg bike would peter out on the hills. One of the young strong men would hop off of his bike, hand it to another man to take up the hill, and push the recumbent bikers to the top of the hill. Amazing. These same men would usually be wearing bike shoes with clips that make them walk awkwardly with their toes up in the air, like walking on their heels, and they did this uphill! That is inspirational.

Nick and I marveled at the wonderful, inspirational people we had met and how they did more for us then we could ever do for them.