Saving lives by restoring hope and purpose. That is the goal Project Hero shared with the Red Wing Elks during their lunch kick-off for the 2021 Great Lakes Challenge. As bicycle riders continue their journey this week, they can travel easy knowing they have the support of local communities pushing them forward.
“Project Hero is dedicated to helping wounded and PTSD affected veterans and first responders achieve hope, recovery and resilience in their daily lives,” Peter Bylsma, director of marketing communications, said. “We accomplish this through weeklong challenge rides and single-day rides throughout the country. The community is invited to come out and ride with the veterans and first responders.”
Bylsma explained that Project Hero -- a nonprofit organization -- also holds community hub programs and supports innovative research to change the way the country treats post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, which can result in mental health issues.
During the Great Lakes event, 39 veterans, first responders and members of the public will ride their bicycles from Minneapolis Aug. 22 to Barrington, IL, ending on Saturday, Aug. 28.
Along the journey, the riders' first stop was Aug. 23 to visit the Red Wing Elks Lodge for lunch.
“Red Wing Elks always want to do anything for our veterans,” Lottie Aslakson, manager of the Elks, said. “Through our charitable gambling resources, we are able to provide a meal to 39 of these riders for lunch at the Red Wing Elks.”
As the participants continue their rehabilitation trip, they will be pushing themselves to the max both mentally and physically to strengthen the peer-to-peer support network, Todd Setter, executive director of Project Hero, said.
Once the voyage is over, the community and therapy doesn’t have to end at the finish line. Project Hero continues to support their riders in any way they can.
All of the organization’s efforts have resulted in 236 custom adaptive bikes being built, 2,654 bikes given to ride participants, 10,250 riders in different programs and over 600,000 hours of riding therapy offered.