Local Boy Scouts feed veterans cycling to Washington

By Paige Jones News-Post Staff | Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014 2:00 am

53b4d03a42a09.imageA Frederick Boy Scout troop hosted a group of disabled veterans venturing on an intracontinental bike ride of almost 800 miles for dinner Wednesday night at the Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Boy Scout Troop 1812 grilled hot dogs and hamburgers and served them with macaroni and cheese and desserts to the 17 cyclists and their 33-person support team, who arrived at Trunk Hall at about 6 p.m., starving from their 85-mile bike ride that day.

“A big aspect of Scouting is community service,” said Greg Williams, Scoutmaster of Troop 1812. “We have a policy that if anyone asks for help, we say yes.” Williams said the troop, which is made up of roughly 40 boys ages 11 to 18, volunteered to host the dinner in response to a countywide email asking for help.

“It’s nice to help veterans after all they’ve done for us,” Williams said. The 17 cyclists are biking from Ottawa, Ontario, to Washington over the course of two weeks to honor those who served and build American-Canadian relations, according to Van Brinson, president and CEO of World T.E.A.M. Sports, which is sponsoring the event.

The cycling team is made up of American, Canadian and Danish veterans and active-duty military members, some of whom are disabled, Brinson said. “These events are great because it allows veterans to interact with young leaders,” Brinson said. “The boys see veterans in a different light. Just because someone is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean it’s a life-ending malady.”

Chris Levi, a 31-year-old U.S. Army veteran, said he chose to participate in the first 2014 CanAm Veterans’ Challenge because he thought it would be a reputable accomplishment.

“I always looked forward to deployment (when I was in the Army), but now that I’m injured, it’s hard to find something meaningful that everyone recognizes as a great achievement,” he said. Levi lost his legs after his truck in Iraq was struck by a makeshift pipe bomb in 2008, he said. He now uses a wheelchair, but he rides a hand cycle to participate in cycling events.

“Hand cycles are about an inch off the ground, so you can feel the sun beating down and the heat coming off the pavement,” Levi said, describing his battle with the heat.

The group has biked an average of 75 miles a day, stopping every 10 miles to rest and hydrate, according to Michael Fuentespina, a Canadian armed forces veteran. The group hopes to arrive in Washington in time to join the Fourth of July parade, he said.

Fuentespina said he decided to try the challenge “so I can help raise awareness that injured soldiers aren’t limited by their injuries,” he said.

Jens Sondergaard, a Danish army veteran, said he found the heat and humidity his biggest challenge during the journey. Sondergaard is paralyzed from the chest down after a sniper shot him in the chest while serving in Croatia 21 years ago.

“It’s been challenging, but beautiful scenery, and each state is a little different,” said David Santamore, a 61-year-old U.S. veteran who served during Vietnam.

Colin Robinson, the troop’s senior patrol leader who organized the event, said the event was a success, and there was plenty of food and some interaction between the boys and veterans. “It helped a lot of people, and we want to do it again,” he said. “It just turned out really well.”

Read the story here.  Follow Paige Jones on Twitter: @paigeleejones.

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