More than 200 injured veterans and their supporters will set off on Sunday, Oct. 18, on the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge, a seven-day, 516-mile bicycle ride from the VA Palo Alto Health Care System – the birthplace of Ride 2 Recovery – to the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center.
California Challenge cyclists will begin their journey in Palo Alto, ride south to Santa Cruz, and then travel the iconic Pacific Coast Highway along the state’s scenic coastline with overnight stops in Carmel, San Simeon, Pismo Beach, Solvang and Ventura. The ride will conclude Saturday, Oct. 24, at the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center. That afternoon, 95-year-old Tuskegee airman Lt. Col. Robert Friend will join the cyclists for the last several miles of the ride and across the finish line at the VA.
The public is encouraged to gather along the daily ride routes or at the hotels to support the cyclists. To see daily stops and events along the route, or to sign up for the California Challenge, visit UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge.
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.
Navy veteran Leila Raffiee-Shirazi of Menlo Park retired in 2010 with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She sought treatment at Menlo Park VA’s PTSD program where a counselor introduced her to Ride 2 Recovery last year.
“From the moment I jumped on the bike, I was simply happy. I cycled three times a week while in the PTSD program, and looked forward to our rides. Cycling became part of my treatment plan,” she said. “Many of us return stateside after serving, and Ride 2 Recovery has allowed me to regain that sense of camaraderie that I missed. It provided a support system of peers who understood what I was going through. I am grateful to Ride 2 Recovery for giving me my life back, and am excited to participate in my second UnitedHealthcare California Challenge.”
The service men and women, including Raffiee-Shirazi, have been training for the California Challenge as a means to build strength and conditioning, and to help overcome the challenges many veterans face when returning home from service. Most of the cyclists are introduced to Ride 2 Recovery from a Warrior Transition Unit/Battalion or Veterans Affairs facility through Ride 2 Recovery’s Project HERO program.
“In the UnitedHealthcare Challenge Series, about 70 percent of the participating injured veterans come through our Project HERO program,” said John Wordin, president and founder, Ride 2 Recovery. “There are 60 Project HERO programs at military bases and VA facilities across the country. Our goal is to establish 30 regional community Project HERO programs across the country that would provide a full spectrum of transitional, reintegration, recovery and rehabilitative services.”
“It is a privilege and honor to support Ride 2 Recovery and its work for the physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation of the men and women who sacrificed their health in the service of our country,” said Tom Wiffler, chief operating officer, UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans. “As the longest-running sponsor of the Challenge rides, we have witnessed firsthand the critical difference Ride 2 Recovery has made in helping veterans in their journey to lifelong health and well-being – a future they so richly deserve.”
This is the sixth year UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, is serving as Ride 2 Recovery’s title 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.
UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans is 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, including more than 790,000 in California.
Ride 2 Recovery is a unique mental and physical rehabilitation and recovery program for veterans. The veterans are able to adapt, improvise and overcome the issues they face. From outdoor training at military installations to multi-day, long distance rides, Ride 2 Recovery helps injured veterans heal through the challenge of cycling using custom adapted bicycles, hand cycles, recumbents, tandems and traditional road bikes.
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, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 850,000 physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @myUHC on Twitter.