By Richard Rhinehart
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, April 30, 2015 – World T.E.A.M. Sports’ best-attended Face of America bicycle and hand cycle ride in the last decade arrived in this historic Civil War community on April 26 after riding 110 miles in two days from the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. The annual ride from the national non-profit saw 581 registered disabled and able-bodied participants work together to successfully complete the journey.
The Face of America recognizes and honors the commitment and sacrifices by military veterans in their defensive services. The inclusive ride first run in 2000 includes veterans who have been injured or disabled in duty. This year, 136 injured veterans from 37 states, Puerto Rico, Canada and Denmark rode alongside retired and active-duty military and civilians.
For the participating injured athletes, of whom more than 60 percent have physical injuries ranging from paralysis to amputations to blindness to loss of hearing, the ride provided the opportunity to improve or maintain physical fitness. Many participants also gained new friends and created lasting social networks for support and consultation.
The weekend festivities began at Arlington, Virginia’s host Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel on April 24 with a musical performance by The American Bombshells. The annual Face of America banquet featured a keynote talk by United States Marine Corps MSgt William “Spanky” Gibson of Oklahoma. Speaking about his tours of duty and his participation in outdoor sports as rehabilitation and exercise from the severe injuries he sustained while in Iraq, MSgt Gibson encouraged veterans who have become disabled to remain physically active. Sporting challenges like the Face of America provide motivation to train and to participate.
Following a rousing early Saturday morning send-off from Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft, the riders pedaled north under cloudy, cool skies through suburban Washington D.C. to an overnight stop in Frederick, Maryland. With skies clearing and bright sunshine bringing welcome warmth Sunday, the riders continued their ride north, passing through the historic Loys Station covered bridge. Just north of the Pennsylvania state line, the enthusiastic Gettysburg Links community welcomed the riders. With numerous retired military veterans living in the golf community, the residents turned out to cheer on the passing riders with patriotic music and a huge American flag hanging across the road.
After a brief rest stop on the outskirts of the historic Gettysburg National Military Park, the riders solemnly rode through the Civil War battlefield, turning south to the ride’s ending at the AllStar Expo Complex at the Eisenhower Hotel. Here, the arriving riders were cheered on through a narrow pathway crowded with family, friends, colleagues and Gettysburg residents. Another huge American flag hung across the road to the ride’s conclusion, and large military guns symbolized the presence of more than 300 active duty and retired military riders. An outdoor lunch completed the Gettysburg welcome, and by mid-afternoon, riders were boarding buses for their journey home.
World T.E.A.M. Sports raised more than $538,000 through support by event partners and through individual donations to participating riders. The funds raised is the most for an individual event by the Holbrook, New York-based non-profit in more than a decade. Donations and sponsor support cover the costs for the ride, including expenses for the participating injured veterans. Any remaining funds are applied to the organization’s upcoming events, such as the Adventure Team Challenge in Colorado’s high mountains in September and the Coastal Team Challenge at Long Island, New York.
Since 2007, more than $2.7 million has been raised through donations to participants of Face of America and through generous sponsorship support. In 2014, of every dollar received by the non-profit organization, $.87 was applied to funding events and covering participation costs of athletes with disabilities.
Capital One Bank served as the presenting sponsor for the 2015 Face of America Ride. Additional support was provided by American Portfolios Financial Services, Booz Allen Hamilton, Benson Botsford LLC, Brioni, CA Technologies, Deven’s Recycling, DuPont Fabros Technology, Fidelity & Guaranty Life, Freshbikes, General Electric, Lerch, Early & Brewer, Penske Truck Rental, Sila Solutions Group, SUBWAY of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Three Wire Systems LLC, U.S. Silica, Vedder Price, Veterans Corps of America and Xtiva Financial Systems.