More than 100 wounded veterans and supporters will roll into Killeen on Wednesday as part of a more than 500-mile ride that started in San Antonio as part of the United Healthcare Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge for wounded warriors.
The 2017 Texas Challenge, benefiting the injured veteran riders of Project Hero, is a noncompetitive, therapeutic bike tour that will traverse north from San Antonio to Waco and then southeast to its conclusion in Houston on Saturday.
Project Hero is a national nonprofit organization that helps veterans and first responders affected by injury, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury achieve rehabilitation, recovery and resilience in their daily lives.
Riding through historic sites, civic centers and local attractions, the riders make the journey with hand cycles, recumbent cycles and custom tandems, said Peter Bylsma, Project Hero spokesman.
“The United Healthcare Texas Challenge is a therapeutic experience that offers healing heroes the opportunity to achieve hope, recovery and resilience in their daily lives,” Bylsma said. “They achieve personal goals during the ride overall, and during each day experience unique peer-to-peer interaction with other veterans and first responders who truly understand the experiences and the challenges they face as they re-enter civilian life, especially if they are suffering from the visible or invisible wounds of PTSD.
“The Texas Challenge, like our other Challenge rides, is instrumental in helping participants achieve improved therapeutic outcomes and lowering therapy costs specifically by reducing clinical drug use, improving sleep habits and decreasing injury recovery time,” he added.
Jonathan Dade, a Project Hero rider from Georgetown, said past Texas Challenges truly changed his life and are a vital part of his continued recovery.
“For a wounded veteran such as myself, cycling has positively changed my life and events like the Texas Challenge keep me on the road to recovery,” he said. “In 2009, I was honorably discharged from over six years of service, but I was not prepared to admit how my time aboard a forward deployed ship and time deployed with an Army air defense battalion wounded me.
“I acted like pains were not real, scars did not exist, and emotions were under control, but a friend saw through it and convinced me to cycle in the Project Hero 2011 Memorial Challenge. Within months and without medication, my weight gain, depression and denial of issues, became a thing of the past.”
The riders are expected to arrive in Killeen between 2 and 3 p.m. Wednesday, coming in on State Highway 195 and following along Chaparral Road to Trimmier Road, Lowes Boulevard, Wal-Mart Boulevard and ending at the Days Inn at 1602 E. Central Texas Expressway.
They will depart to Waco starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.
The public is invited to come out and show their support of the riders. For more information on the ride, go to www.projecthero.org.