Females are coming out in full force for Soldier Ride Phoenix, getting their bikes and bodies in gear to participate in the Nov. 20-21 event hosted by U-Haul.
A 15-mile bike ride on Nov. 20 through the streets of Phoenix and a 19-mile trek through Cave Creek on Nov. 21 is done to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. The Phoenix event is one of the most well-attended and celebrated events on the Soldier Ride calendar.
“I believe that is just the popularity of the Phoenix Soldier Ride,” said Dan Schnock, director of Soldier Ride and Wounded Warrior Project coordinator.
Twelve of the 19 Team U-Haul riders this year are women. There also are eight female Warriors and three female support riders participating alongside their respective Warriors – a total of 11 that’s about double the typical female turnout for a ride and roughly 20 percent of the Warriors’ entry list.
Schnock welcomes the “girl power” element and is excited to see their involvement.
Wounded Warrior Project is a charitable veterans service organization that offers a variety of programs, services and events for wounded veterans of military action following Sept. 11, 2001. U-Haul is proud to be a founding member of Soldier Ride, which started in 2004 and continues to expand annually with new events.
“Soldier Ride could not happen without the partnership of U-Haul,” Schnock said. “The Company provides lunch at each Soldier Ride, provides trucks at each event, and has teammates come and volunteer at each one of our Soldier Rides throughout the U.S.”
The cycling event and all the activities that surround it are a form of rehabilitation for the Warriors, offering them an opportunity to use exercise and the bonds of service to overcome physical, mental or emotional wounds.
“These rides help to make an impact on the Warriors,” Schnock said. “Some need socialization, some need to get confidence to learn that they can start moving again, and some just need to hear the community cheer them on.”
Warriors of all abilities can ride. Adaptive hand cycles, trikes and bicycles are made to fit the needs of Warriors with disabilities. U-Haul trucks deliver the bikes to help the Warriors get fitted with their new modes of transportation. Those same U-Haul trucks make sure the bikes are there and ready to roll for the ride.
“It’s such a great feeling when we bike by businesses where the employees stand outside and wave flags for us,” U-Haul Team Member Brigitte Bavousett said.
Bavousett has been a part of the U-Haul sustainability department for the past seven years. Her father was an Air Force pilot who served in Vietnam. This will be Bavousett’s fifth time participating in the Phoenix ride.
U-Haul sales and reservations director Robin Pitman is looking forward to the challenge and rewards of her fourth Soldier Ride.
“The highlight for me is getting to know the soldiers as I ride next to them, giving them support and cheering them on as they ride,” Pitman said. “It gives you the best feeling knowing you’ve raised money that goes directly to these heroes. You can’t come away from the experience without feeling tremendous pride.”
Adding to the “girl power” of this Soldier Ride, the keynote speaker at the Warriors’ breakfast on Nov. 20 will be U-Haul vice president of human resources Angie DeWinter.
“I am honored to accept this opportunity to address our team and our nation’s heroes,” DeWinter said. “My dad served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, so I am personally just a ‘military brat,’ but I have a heartfelt appreciation for the women and men who have served this country.”
After completing both segments of the 34-mile ride, the Warriors and U-Haul Team Members end their journey with a dinner and gala provided by U-Haul at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Price House in Paradise Valley. Participants leave the event with new friendships, and possibly a new lease on life.
Click here to watch Warriors Speak representative Deven Schei, Sgt. (Retired), close out the gala for 2014 Soldier Ride Phoenix with an impactful speech.