WYDaily.com is your source for free news and information in Williamsburg, James City & York Counties.
Upon returning to civilian life after six years in the U.S. Navy, Jonathan Dade found some wounds heal faster than others.
“A lot of my physical wounds had healed, but emotionally I was struggling,” Dade said of his progress addressing both severe back pains and post-traumatic stress disorder once he got out of the military.
Dade attributes Ride 2 Recovery with his success in overcoming the emotional turmoil he, like many veterans, struggling with for years after he completed his service.
Ride 2 Recovery, which came through Colonial Williamsburg on Thursday, is a program formulated specifically with injured veterans in mind, and it aims to provide a sense of hope, purpose, and camaraderie for vets who have suffered both physically and mentally.
The nonprofit began in 2008 when a recreational therapist reached out to founder John Wordin with the idea that cycling could be a great alternative therapy for people suffering from PTSD or traumatic brain injury.
Since then, Ride 2 Recovery has grown each year and expanded to include several yearly cycling “Challenges” that span several days and aim to uplift the veterans who participate in them and restore their confidence in their physical and mental abilities.
The latest challenge began Monday in Washington D.C. and will conclude Friday in Virginia Beach, and they passed through Colonial Williamsburg along the way. The ride covers more than 360 miles, and many stretches along the way will be lined with family, friends and supporters of the 200 participating cyclists.
The riders completed their penultimate day of cycling Thursday at just past 3 p.m., when they pulled up in front of the Baskin Robbins in Downtown Williamsburg and eagerly poured inside for some ice cream on the house.
Gail Youngs, the manager of this Baskin Robbins location, was thrilled when Ride 2 Recovery reached out to her and asked if she would be willing to host the cyclists at the end of this leg of their ride.
“This was a terrific opportunity for us to do something for a great cause, and we were so happy to be a part of this,” Youngs said.
Once the cyclists had been served, Vice Mayor Paul Freiling delivered a brief proclamation declaring May 28 “Ride 2 Recovery Day” in the City of Williamsburg.
"Ride 2 Recovery is an organization with a terrific track record of honoring these people for their service, helping them overcome challenges, and giving them hope for the future," Freiling said. "I think that goes right along with the message of Colonial Williamsburg, which was a group of people who were also overcoming challenges and looking to the future, and we’re still benefiting from those values today."
As for why taking on a cycling challenge with a group of other injured veterans is appealing, Lori Kelley, a California native and first-time Ride 2 Recovery participant, describes it as “group therapy.”
“It’s a lonely feeling when you get out [of the military]," Kelley said. "This works for us because we are used to team building and helping motivate each other.”
Scott Stanley echoed those sentiments.
“I’m still in the military but a lot of these people who are out don’t have the camaraderie the military gives them, and they miss that. That’s why this program is great.”