Palo Alto CA – More than 200 injured veterans and their supporters will set off on Sunday, Oct. 5, on the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge, a seven-day, 465-mile bicycle ride from VA Palo Alto Health Care System, the birthplace of Ride 2 Recovery to VA West Los Angeles Medical Center.
California Challenge cyclists will begin their journey in Palo Alto, ride south to Gilroy, 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. 11, at the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center.
Jamie Rihn a medically retired, wounded Veteran Marine, from Oceanside will be joining the ride this year. Rihn joined the Corps in March of 2003 and has been deployed four times; three were considered Combat tours to include her last deployment to Afghanistan. Her Military Occupational Specialty was 3531 – Motor transport, 3534 – Refueler Operator. While with her last unit MWSS 373, she refueled aircraft, rotary wing and fixed wing. Rihn retired from the Marine Corps on July 30, 2014 due to medical reasons.
“Being able to be around ‘people like me’ helps a lot.” said Rihn, “I normally don’t like to be around crowds or people in general, but being with Ride 2 Recovery makes things easier. It allows me to put myself in a group of people. Normally while here at home, if my husband isn’t with me, my Service Dog, Rhea goes everywhere with me.”
The highlights of the week-long ride include comedian Dennis Miller welcoming the riders in Solvang on Thursday, Oct. 9, and performing for them during a dinner reception. On Saturday, Oct. 11, 94-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 VA West Los Angeles Medical Center.
The public is encouraged to gather along the daily ride routes or at the hotels to support the cyclists at any juncture along the route. 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.
Jose Miranda of Pasadena, Calif., joined Ride 2 Recovery in 2013 and pedaled a recumbent bike 425 miles from Chicago to Detroit. Miranda, a U.S. Navy veteran, lost his right leg above the knee when he was run over by a jet while stationed on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific. Earlier this year, after regaining strength and balance, Miranda began riding an upright road bike.
“Cycling allows me to challenge myself physically and mentally as I continue to heal from my wounds,” said Miranda. “I’m excited to be back on an upright bike and look forward to riding in the UnitedHealthcare Ride 2 Recovery California Challenge with my fellow veterans. I hope I can inspire them as they get on their road to recovery as well.”
The service men and women such as Miranda 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 60 percent of the participating injured veterans come through our feeder program, Project HERO,” said John Wordin, president and founder, Ride 2 Recovery. “There are 43 Project HERO programs at military bases and VA facilities across the country. Our medical personnel and R2R onsite coordinators help prepare these healing heroes for the week-long challenge of riding a bike hundreds of miles. For these men and women, cycling becomes a life-changing addition to their physical and mental rehabilitation.”
“It is an honor to support the 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 of UnitedHealthcare Military & Veterans. “Ride 2 Recovery is making a critical difference in helping these veterans in their journey to lifelong health and well-being – a future they so richly deserve.”
This is the fifth 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.
Last 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, including more than 846,000 in California.
Ride 2 Recovery supports physical and psychological rehabilitation programs for injured veterans, featuring cycling as the core activity. From outdoor training at military installations to multiday, 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 and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 800,000 physicians and care professionals and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare serves more than 45 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.