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World T.E.A.M. Sports’ CanAm Veterans’ Challenge Concludes July 4

By Richard Rhinehart

July 1, 2014, Washington, DC – Injured veterans from Canada, the United States and Denmark are riding Pennsylvania’s and Maryland’s scenic byways to America’s capital this week as the 766-mile, 16 day inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge from non-profit World T.E.A.M. Sports concludes.

CanAm Team at Parliament.

The inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge team at Parliament in Ottawa, Canada, June 20, 2014. Photograph courtesy Rebecca Brashears.

Riding bicycles, hand cycles and recumbent bikes, the two-week journey from Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario comes to an end at the steps of the Capitol in Washington. The group is scheduled to participate in the prestigious National Independence Day Parade on the National Mall, presented by the National Park Service on July 4.

The 16 injured veterans and nine able-bodied colleagues began their ride on June 20 and passed through Ontario, New York and Pennsylvania on their way to the capital. Along the journey, the riders joined together as a team, sharing meals and visits to attractions such as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Many communities, businesses and service organizations welcomed the team members into their town, providing receptions, dinners and special events.

Marina Libro receives an assist on a hill.

Veteran Marina Libro receives a helping hand from three team members in a steep ascent in central Pennsylvania. Photograph by Van Brinson.

Many of the participating veterans saw active service in wars and conflicts from Vietnam and Bosnia to Iraq and Afghanistan. Their service to their country resulted in the loss of limbs, paralysis, blindness, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress. Riding together helped create a new sense of community for these veterans, as well as demonstrate that individuals with disabilities are capable of exceptional achievements.

Tackling steep ascents in Pennsylvania’s mountains together, the riders found that teamwork helps conquer challenges any one member may face. Riding long miles between rest stops, the riders created strong friendships that will last beyond the conclusion of the Challenge.

Riders depart Binghamton, New York.

Team members depart Binghamton in southern New York June 27, 2014. Photograph by Van Brinson.

“I volunteered to do this ride, because of my love for my country and brothers and sisters in arms,” said Army veteran Steve Baskis of Illinois. “Having lost my vision in Iraq in 2008, I returned back to the United States without the ability to see the beautiful country I grew up in. The CanAm ride provides a blind soldier a unique experience and perspective of North America.”

“I am doing this ride because I want to prove to myself that I can do this and any other challenge that I put my mind to,” said Idaho National Guard veteran Marc Gabiger, who works with the Idaho Steelheads, an ECHL professional hockey team.

Riders gather in Lowville, New York.

A group of CanAm Veterans’ Challenge riders gather in Lowville, New York, on route to Rome. From left, British Columbia veteran Dan Bodden, New Hampshire veteran Harry Carr, Virginia veteran Marina Libro, Virginia, and Colorado veterans Scott Bates and Jose Santiago. Photograph courtesy Steve Virkler, Johnson Newspapers.

Robert Bidder, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces since 1985, looks to the Challenge as an opportunity for “social interaction for those who otherwise might have difficulties due to symptoms related to operational stress injuries. My military career is coming to an end this fall, but I hope to be able to remain in a position where I can assist injured or ill veterans.”

Corporate sponsors for the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge include Realty Capital Securities LLC, American Portfolios Financial Services, Benson Botsford LLC, Exit 10, Gerstein Fisher, Penske Truck Rental, Pershing and Freshbikes. Partners include Wounded Warriors Canada and Soldier On from the Canadian Armed Forces.

Visit the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge web site for detailed ride information.

Inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge Bicycle Ride with Injured Veterans to Inspire

By Richard Rhinehart

Ottawa, Ontario, June 17, 2014 – For 14 days beginning June 20, a team of 16 injured Canadian, American and Danish veterans in World T.E.A.M. Sports’ inaugural CanAm Veterans’ Challenge will ride bicycles, hand cycles and recumbent bicycles nearly 800 miles from the capital of Canada to the capital of the United States.

Steve Baskis climbing.

Army veteran Steve Baskis lost his sight in Iraq. Yet, he is active in outdoor sports, including rock climbing. Photograph courtesy of Steve Baskis.

Departing from the steps of Canada’s Parliament at 9 a.m. June 20, the riders will travel from ten to 90 miles each day as they pass through Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia on their way to Washington. Arriving in the capital on July 4, the team will participate in the National Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue before completing their journey.

Participating riders include war and conflict veterans who served in Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Joining the veterans will be nine able-bodied riders, two serving as pilots for blind veterans riding tandem bicycles. Other veterans have experienced loss of limb, paralysis, post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries during their national service.

“The CanAm ride will provide a blind soldier a unique experience and perspective of North America,” said Army veteran Steve Baskis, who lost his sight in Iraq. “Along the way between two nations, I hope to motivate and inspire others to dream big and go far.”

“I am doing the ride to connect with other injured soldiers who are trying to overcome their limitations through participation in fitness-related activities,” said Canadian Armed Forces veteran Michael Fuentespina, who completed tours in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. “I hope to learn from their experiences and use this both personally and professionally.”

Michael Fuetespina.

Canadian Armed Forces veteran Michael Fuentespina completed tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Photograph courtesy Michael Fuentespina.

U.S. Navy veteran Scott Bates looks at the ride as a way to recover from his service-related injuries. “Cycling itself can even be looked at as a metaphor. While you may not be the fastest or most talented, if you are persistent and do not give up, you will cover vast distances sooner than you realize,” Bates said.

Retired Master Sergeant Marina Libro is the only woman veteran participating in the ride. Libro retired from her Army service in 2011. “This is why I ride,” Libro said. “Cycling keeps me sane. When I can’t ride physically, I am riding mentally. I am beginning to open up more and tell my story more because of cycling. Cycling is my safe place. That is what I hope to get back to on each ride I go on: my safe place, my place to decompress and to physically exert and challenge myself in a safe environment with other people just like me. People say you can’t see your soul – I can: every time I look at my trike.”

Created by World T.E.A.M. Sports, the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge is the latest sporting event by the national non-profit organization. For more than two decades, the New York-based organization has developed and managed inclusive sporting events for persons with disabilities and able-bodied persons. This unique combination illustrates the benefits of teamwork and cooperation – that by working together, great challenges can be overcome. World T.E.A.M. Sports looks to the “coalition of the riding” in the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge to provide inspiration to other persons with disabilities and to the public.

Corporate sponsors for the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge include Realty Capital Securities LLC, American Portfolios Financial Services, Benson Botsford LLC, Exit 10, Gerstein Fisher, Penske Truck Rental, and Pershing. Partners include Wounded Warriors Canada and Soldier On from the Canadian Armed Forces.

Visit the CanAm Veterans’ Challenge website.

Richard Rhinehart serves as Director of Communications for World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Jens Sondergaard

Danish Army veteran Jens Sondergaard on his bike at Danish Army headquarters. The flag on his bike was used by two sled teams in Greenland with the Danish Sirius Patrol. Photograph courtesy Jens Sondergaard.

Site Credits

The World T.E.A.M. Sports website was designed and developed by Exit 10 Advertising.

Content updates by Richard Rhinehart, Director of Communications for World T.E.A.M. Sports.