Mike Wheeler, 28, plans to ride his Tricross Cyclocross bicycle from Portage Lakes to Washington, D.C., where he’ll finish his journey at the Wounded Warrior Project’s Capitol Hill headquarters.
Despite never having been able to serve in the military himself, 2003 Coventry grad Mike Wheeler has found a way to honor veterans and active-duty servicemen and women.
The 28-year-old man plans to ride his Tricross Cyclocross bicycle from Portage Lakes to Washington, D.C., where he’ll finish his journey at the Wounded Warrior Project’s Capitol Hill headquarters.
“It’s about 450 miles and I’m hoping to do it in about a week,” Mike said.
The Wounded Warrior Project’s official mission is to “foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history,” according to its website, www.woundedwarriorproject.org.
For Mike, who is a licensed practical nurse by trade, there’s no more feasible opportunity for him to help veterans.
“The main thing is, I’ve always tried to find some way to serve in the military and the opportunity never presented itself in the right way,” Mike said. “I have friends and family who are service members and I just wanted to show my support in some way. And this is the way that I can do it right now.”
In addition to building up his cycling tolerance by taking 100-mile training rides, Mike has also been reaching out to the local veteran community by setting up booths at various fairs and memorial sites.
“I’ve been getting a lot of veterans that come up and tell me stories about the Wounded Warrior Project and how it’s helped them,” Mike said, noting examples of wounded soldiers who were given things to wear, among other things, by the organization.
Mike will embark on his journey Tuesday and hopes to reach Washington, D.C. on Sept. 16. with only a tent, sleeping bag, food and a few clothing items in tow. He intends to wear a cycling jersey to represent each branch of the military every day of his ride.
Mike has felt the full support of family. His parents Barb and Garry, a veteran himself, and sister, Katie, have helped along the way.
“My mom has been the biggest help,” Mike said, adding that his mother has made flyers and gone to various fundraising events with him.
“I am extremely proud of him and I just think it’s really cool that he is making the ride,” Barb said.
At one point, the mother-son pair set up a booth at the Ohio Veterans Memorial Park in Clinton where they had some particularly touching moments with former service members.
“There was an elderly man who didn’t even want to talk to him at first and Mike took his hand and asked him if he was a veteran and he said, ‘Sir, I just want to thank you for serving our great country,’ and he cried and told Mike that no one has ever thanked him before, and that brings tears to my eyes,” Barb said.
Page 2 of 2 - The family intends to check on Mike along the way and will meet him for his donation delivery to the Wounded Warrior Project in Washington, D.C. They’ll also see him off by riding the first half-mile with him.
“His compassion and caring for the service men of country is just really cool to see,” Barb said.
So far, Mike’s raised about $2,000 and has surpassed his fundraising goal.
“One hundred percent of donations are going to Wounded Warrior Project, any costs like hotels or anything I’m just paying for myself,” Mike said. “I don’t want people to worry that the donations are not being used in the right way.”
For more information about Mike and his project visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/wwpridetodc.