Two friends will bike more than 3,000 miles across the country to raise awareness for veteran suicide.
Matt Prather of Atlanta, Georgia, and Mike Price of Greenville, South Carolina, will start the ride from Santa Barbara on Sept. 21. They will ride an average of 80 miles per day over two months to get to Patriot’s Point outside Charleston, South Carolina on Nov. 8, just in time for Veterans Day weekend, according to a news release from the Wounded Warrior Project, .
“Mike and I weren’t in the military, but our fathers were. And my in-law was,” said Mr. Prather during a Tuesday morning phone interview.
“We’ve been planning to do a trip like this for a long time, but we wanted to do it in a way that would mean something. This is a wonderful cause because we get to help those that sacrificed so much for us.”
The cyclists will represent the Blue Angels Foundation, which supports the Wounded Warrior Project’s Warrior Care Network.
Funds raised by the ride will support post-traumatic stress protocol at either Emory Veterans Center in Atlanta, Mass General Hospital’s Home Base in Boston, the Rush Medical Center in Chicago, or the UCLA Medical Center.
“My father was a Navy (World War II) veteran, and I can’t think of a better way to honor his commitment than to ride and work for the cause of helping to eliminate suicides of our returning military soldiers,” Mr. Price said in a statement on the ride.
Mr. Prather said his friend Kathy Matejka will follow the riders in a truck laden with emergency supplies, spare bicycle parts and camping equipment. The riders will also carry a GPS tracker that is equipped with an emergency beacon in case they run into trouble and do not have cell service.
“This is different from a lot of the rides that we’ve done. Usually we end up back at our cars or at a starting point, but on this trip every day will be different…We’ll touch our rear tires in the Pacific Ocean and our front tires on the East Coast,” said Mr. Prather.
He added that while they choose to start from Santa Barbara because of its beauty, the ride from there to the Grand Canyon will be hardest of the trip due to forecasted triple-digit temperatures along the way.
“Those are going to be some long days, so we need to be careful of the heat,” said Mr. Prather
The steepest climb of the trip will be the 7,000-foot climb to Durango, Colorado.
Mr. Prather said he has been training vigorously since January. Part of that training included a 120-mile ride over three days in Colorado called the Triple Bypass.
The riders hope to connect 100 injured veterans with lifesaving Wounded Warrior programs in 2020.
“Warriors never pay a penny for WWP programs or services because they paid their dues on the battlefield,” reads the news release on the ride.
Donations in support of the ride will be matched by the Blue Angels Foundation.