More than 200 injured veterans and their supporters will set off Saturday, Aug. 24, on the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery Great Lakes Challenge, a six-day, 375-mile bicycle ride from Chicago to Detroit.
The veterans have trained for this ride as a means to help build strength and conditioning, and also help overcome the emotional challenges many veterans face when returning home from service.
Great Lakes Challenge cyclists will start their journey with a ceremony at Soldier Field – home of the Chicago Bears – and ride east through Michigan with overnight stops in Michigan City, South Haven, Grand Rapids, East Lansing and Novi. The ride will conclude in Detroit Thursday, Aug. 29. To see daily stops and events along the route, or to sign up for the Great Lakes Challenge, click here for the online ride guide.
The public is encouraged to gather along the daily ride routes or at the hotels to support the cyclists.
"To me, Ride 2 Recovery means freedom. Sometimes you have to go along for the ride just to experience it," said Jaime Cruz of Kalamazoo, U.S.M.C. retired and active duty Army Reserves. "There is a bond that forms with other riders because you are unquestionably in it together – suffering through the weather or hills that go on forever. My experience is different on every ride, with new people to ride with and new skills to learn. I always look forward to the next ride."
Ride 2 Recovery supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for injured veterans, featuring cycling as the core activity. From indoor spinning training at military installations to multiday, long-distance rides, Ride 2 Recovery helps injured veterans heal through the challenge of cycling long distances using hand cycles, recumbents, tandems and traditional road bikes.
"The UnitedHealthcare Challenge Series offers our healing heroes involved in the Project HERO program a way to get back in the game of life," said John Wordin, president and founder, Ride 2 Recovery. "We have established 37 Project HERO program locations on military installations and at Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. Participants are evaluated and coached by the Ride 2 Recovery staff to rebuild strength and conditioning, while concurrently healing the effects of PTS (post traumatic stress), traumatic brain injuries and depression. Cycling is a powerful therapeutic exercise that they can do alone or in groups for the rest of their lives."
This is the fourth year UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, is serving as Ride 2 Recovery's presenting sponsor, providing financial, in-kind and volunteer support to help America's injured veterans.
Ride 2 Recovery is one of many ways UnitedHealth Group supports veterans and their families. In 2012, UnitedHealth Group joined the 100,000 Jobs Mission, a coalition of major U.S. corporations that share the goal of hiring 100,000 transitioning service members and military veterans by 2020. UnitedHealth Group partners with a variety of organizations to help source military and veteran candidates such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership, RecruitMilitary and the Wounded Warrior Project. And earlier this year, UnitedHealthcare became the managed care support contractor for the West Region of the U.S. Defense Department's TRICARE program, serving nearly 2.9 million military service members, retirees and their families in 21 states.
"It's an honor to support Ride 2 Recovery and its work for the physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation of the men and women who have sacrificed their health in service to our country," said Colleen Van Ham, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual of Illinois & Northwest Indiana. "Ride 2 Recovery's weeklong challenges and Project HERO are making a critical difference in helping these veterans in their journey to lifelong health and well-being."
Ride 2 Recovery, a 501(c) 3, helps injured veterans improve their health and wellness through individual and group cycling. Cycling has proven to be a catalyst in the recovery process by providing a new physical challenge while concurrently helping to cope with the psychological challenges.
Ride 2 Recovery has established Project HERO programs at 34 military installations and three VA sites. Through these on-site programs, R2R partners with the facility staff and cadre to create personalized and progressive programs to fit the needs of the individual patients and promote a fuller, quicker rehabilitation.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 780,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,900 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 40 million people in health benefits and is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.