This blog post is from an article originally published by the Orange County Register, July 29th, 2013
BY JILLIAN BECK / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
He wants to get back on a bike.
Growing up, Donny Savard rode almost daily. He bought a collection of bikes using cash earned by mowing neighbors’ huge rural lawns in his Grass Valley neighborhood.
Eventually, he built his own. And he kept riding.
But, Savard sustained injuries while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Iraq War. In a wheelchair, he was sidelined from cycling.
These days, his collection is much smaller, and a reminder of what he can no longer do.
At times, Savard gets frustrated. He’ll go into his garage that’s attached to his home in Laguna Niguel, where he lives with his wife and young son, and see the bikes that he can’t ride anymore.
“It’s real frustrating going out there and just thinking to myself, ‘I had a lot of fun and good times riding those,’ ” he said.
The bike Savard needs, one that he can pedal with his hands, is pricey – about $4,000 to $10,000.
This time, he’ll have some help earning money for his bike.
Members of the Irvine and Greater Orange County cycling community will gather to raise the money for Savard’s hand cycle with a ride on Aug. 3 at a local bike shop in Irvine, A Road Bike 4U.
Bruce Marshall, the owner of A Road Bike 4U, reached out earlier this year to Ride 2 Recovery to bring an Honor Ride to Irvine. Last summer, the bike shop organized a ride to benefit the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, raising about $2,500.
Ride 2 Recovery is a national nonprofit organization that uses cycling as a form of rehabilitation for healing heroes, said Linda Glassell, national director of Honor Rides for the group.
The organization puts on rides, not races, across the country and the world. They can be a daylong Honor Ride, or a weeklong Challenge Ride. The Aug. 3 event is an Honor Ride.
Marshall was looking for a cause the cycling community could rally around. That’s when he found Ride 2 Recovery while surfing the Internet.
Helping veterans is close to home for Marshall.
His grandfather, who passed away 15 years ago, fought in World War II, losing his left arm in combat.
Marshall witnessed his grandfather’s tough transition back into civilian life with his injury, and saw him use golf as a way to recover.
“The sport was such an integral part of keeping him in good spirits and happy, despite his pain and everything he went through,” Marshall said. “I see cycling as doing that for a lot of people.”
Ride 2 Recovery, and its Project HERO (Healing Exercise Rehabilitation Opportunity) programs, aim to provide training and cycling programs at military hospitals and other veteran affairs facilities to help veterans overcome obstacles they may face once they return from duty.
Many veterans in the program suffer from psychological or physical effects from their service – often, both. Some experience post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Others have lost limbs or brain injuries.
Ride 2 Recovery purchases or builds about 100 bikes for veterans in the rehabilitation programs each year, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 per bicycle, depending on the specifications and adaptations needed for each injured veteran cyclist, according to David Haines, chief operating officer of Ride 2 Recovery.
Richard Brock, a program manager for Project HERO at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Long Beach, said when veterans come back, many have become accustomed to military life, which is mission-orientated. Cycling can let them set and achieve goals, said Brock, who has worked with hundreds of veterans through the Project HERO program.
The camaraderie of Ride 2 Recovery’s weeklong Challenge Rides, and continued support, gives veterans a social environment to talk with one another.
Savard is looking forward to participating in some of the weeklong rides; the cycling itself, but also the social aspect.
“It’s not just riding with other people, it’s riding with other servicemen,” he said. “Especially the fact that there are other disabled veterans – we’ll always have something to talk about.”
About 75 people have signed up for the ride so far. Marshall hopes this year will be the start of a tradition at his shop. They’ve already set a tentative date for next summer – Aug. 2.
The ride is attracting many from the local cycling community, including Olympic silver-medalist and Irvine resident Dotsie Bausch.
Bausch, who won a silver medal at the London Olympics last year in the cycling team pursuit event, recently started helping out with Ride 2 Recovery.
“We know freedom is not free and the more that we can expose what these guys and gals have done fighting for us to be where we are … is a gift to anyone who experiences it,” she said. “So having (the Honor Ride) here in my own backyard, are you kidding me? It’s amazing. It needs to be everywhere – in small towns to big cities to Manhattan.”
She hopes to eventually coach some of the veterans into becoming competitive cyclers, helping some to compete in the 2016 or 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
Savard’s eventual goal is to compete.
Remembering the feeling of cycling makes him smile.
“It’s nice when you get on a stretch of flat road, or a slight downhill, and you can just relax and feel the wind in your face,” he said. “(It’s) the feeling of not having a care in the world about anything.”
Expect to see him zooming along Pacific Coast Highway in the coming months, getting back to that feeling of tranquility, once he gets his bike. He’s got his heart set on an Invacare Top End Force RX hand cycle, a model that allows him to lay down with just his neck and head tilted up.
Ride 2 Recovery is working on getting Savard a bike to use for Irvine’s Honor Ride next month. He said it might be one of the seated hand cycles, the kind that makes his body feel uncomfortable. But it would be one he can use to at least start off the ride with the other participants.
It’s time to get back on a bike. “But, if I get comfortable, I probably won’t stop,” he said, laughing.
Both the 25 and 60-mile rides will start and end at A Road Bike 4U, Main St. & Red Hill Ave, Irvine.
Individuals can register online at https://ride2recovery.com/honorRide.php
$35 pre-sale, $45 for day-of registration, injured veterans are free
The event starts at 8 a.m.