Cape bike ride honors, empowers wounded vets
Cape Cod Times
For many of the 25 wounded veterans coming to the Cape on Thursday, the past few months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center were solitary and sedentary.
But the first Cape Cod Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride, to be held Thursday and Friday, is meant to give them a sense of camaraderie and self-confidence.
"It's essentially to restore their physical and emotional well-being. And it provides the first steps to a return to an active lifestyle," said ride organizer Cathi Hill, a part-time resident of Brewster.
The event will include a 22-mile ride from Dennis to Wellfleet on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a day of activities in Provincetown, a ride on Falmouth's Shining Sea Bikeway and a trip to a Boston Red Sox game.
It is a precursor to a longer, more official Soldier Ride in Boston on Sept. 22, Hill said.
"This is to get them acclimated to their bikes, get them bonded and get them back into a comfortable place psychologically... to really build their confidence for the big ride," she said.
Volunteers won't know who the soldiers are until they arrive in Dennis, Hill said. But most are young, with injuries that include burns, gunshots, amputations and psychological traumas.
Many have spent months in the hospital recovering and are facing retirement from the military because of their injuries, she said.
The nonprofit Wounded Warrior Project, which organizes similar rides across the country, provides adaptive bicycles for the riders, according to its website (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/).
In 2010, there were 10 rides, serving 204 wounded veterans, according to a Wounded Warrior Project annual report.
Ninety percent of participants reported that their rides helped them develop coping skills and greater self-confidence, the report states.
"It's a mission not only to honor them but empower them as well," Hill said.
Along with the two rides, veterans will be given a tourist-like Cape experience in Provincetown, said Kim Hurd, the volunteer organizing the Provincetown events.
Though it is the first Soldier Ride on the Cape, organizers have seen a huge outpouring of support from local businesses and law enforcement agencies, said Hill, who as former mayor in the Florida Keys town of Islamorada, has helped organize rides between Miami and Key West since 2005.
"It's amazing what can happen in a community like this," Hurd said. "These soldiers are coming home and are in need of support, and they're getting that."
©2012 the Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, Mass.)
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