Cyclist and Author Buzz Ponce’s cross-country charity bike ride this summer for veteran healing and Warriors Heart Foundation is an inspiring reminder of how you can mix a vacation and big birthday with giving back. While turning 70, Buzz proudly rode his bike 3,100 miles from California to Florida to raise awareness of how this foundation helps veterans and first responders struggling with addiction and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
With an average of 20 veteran suicides per day in the US and 1 Law Enforcement Officer every 62 hours, Buzz felt compelled to take action. He wanted his cross-country bike ride to be about much more than him, and emphasized that this cause; “was a real motivator and an inspiration for me.”
And through the generous support of Rotary Clubs, veterans and fans, Buzz’s bike ride raised over $10,000 to provide financial assistance to military, veterans and first responders seeking treatment at Warriors Heart. This charity means a lot to Buzz because his father and uncles served in the U.S. Navy in WWII, and his stepson Josh Lannon is the Warriors Heart Founder and President.
Buzz’s birthday trip started in California (Oceanside Pier, Pacific Ocean) on May 1, and he dipped his bike in the Atlantic Ocean in Florida (St Augustine Beach Pier) on June 26. Reflecting on this major milestone, Buzz shared, “I’ve appreciated many things along this long bike ride. And while I may have questioned myself more than several times, this I learned: never doubt. If something is important, just do it. And this experience was important for many reasons.”
Buzz rode about 50 miles/day to raise awareness and money for Warriors Heart Foundation. This 501(c)(3) provides scholarships and insurance supplements to warriors (military, veterans and first responders) seeking treatment for chemical dependencies and PTSD. And while Warriors Heart accepts most insurance, the foundation helps cover deductibles and in some cases provides full scholarships.
As a mid-way break, Buzz stopped at Warriors Heart in Bandera, Texas, to see his stepson and family at their 543-acre ranch outside San Antonio. It was a former corporate retreat center with a lake, hiking trails, pool, gym and metal shop that many clients say feels like the “opposite of a hospital.”
Once arriving in Florida, Ponce was greeted at the St Augustine Beach Pier by members of the Rotary Club of St. Augustine. Everyone cheered and documented this historic moment on the beach on camera.
Reflecting on his ride, Buzz added; “I’ve sweated buckets, battled many miles of hills, shared skinny bicycle lanes with thousands of trucks and cars, fought fatigue, questioned my sanity, and have loved it all. The people who I met, and scenes encountered will be forever etched in my mind.”
Buzz gave special thanks to his travel partner Dave Rickabaugh, who drove the support vehicle, resolved mechanical issues and was there for every bump and turn. Dave was also proud to support Warriors Heart and veteran healing. His father, Colonel David D Rickabaugh Sr. served in the United States Marine Corps for several duties in Vietnam.
To be part of Buzz’s 70th birthday charity bike ride celebration, you can read his trip blog, book (“A Long Ride Coming Home”), and/or support Warriors Heart Foundation helping our veterans and first responders overcome their War at Home. To get involved, visit http://warriorsheartfoundation.org