The Veterans Charity Ride – From Los Angeles to South Dakota
The old saying goes, ‘You never see a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist’s office’. With the open roads, the windy breeze, and the iconic scenery, motorcycle therapy has become the perfect formula for success when catered toward veterans from all branches of service. In three short years, Veterans Charity Ride (VCR) has produced a nationally recognized non-profit health and wellness organization focused on honoring these heroes through outreach, action, and community support.
Founded by U.S. Army Airborne Paratrooper and born motorcyclist, “Indian Dave”, VCR is specifically designed to aid wounded and amputee combat veterans on a 2,000-mile excursion from Los Angeles to the Sturgis Bike Rally in South Dakota. Its mission to change and save lives advocates existing in the moment and leaving the past behind to create a more capable individual and encourage other veterans to do the same. Navigating a motorcycle safely requires the rider to be in the present, totally aware of his or her surroundings, and immersed in the thrill of being exposed to the sights, the smells, and the taste of adventure without any confines. “Motorcycles, freedom, and veterans are a natural fit,” Dave said, “They come together in such a way that delivers an experience like no other.”
Riding for half a century, Dave introduced one of the first available Indian Motorcycles to Los Angeles in 2013, earning him the road name “Indian Dave”. After joining the army at 18 years old and practicing combat training in Alaska’s extreme cold, Dave learned early on how important teamwork and dependence on his fellow soldiers is to survival. After moving to Santa Clarita over 30 years ago with his all-star teammate, wife Sue Frey, the couple stuck to what they know best and began developing the logistics of how VCR could help rehabilitate a veteran’s goals and purposes.
Propped up on Indian motorcycles, trikes, and Champion sidecars, 20 veterans including a film crew led by co-founder and Emmy-winning producer and director Robert Manciero, departed July 28 on their nine-day journey. This fleet of motorcycles headed out as they do every year around this time to see the beautiful country they all fought for; stopping in small towns such as Moab, Utah and Eagle, Colorado to participate in parades, concerts, and appreciation dinners all across America. The VCR volunteers have witnessed tremendous growth in the closed-off men and women that originally set out as strangers later evolving into a family built on trust and communication with one another and their hosts.
Specific to VCR, the “Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime” selectees for 2017 are retired bi-lateral above-the-knee amputees U.S. Army Corporal Joshua Stein and U.S. Marines Corporal Neil Frustaglio. The two friends will be riding alongside Dave and former Henry Mayo Hospital Senior VP and CFO Bob Hudson, who is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans and on the advisory council for VCR. This year’s ride is unique in that all amputee veterans will be able to operate modified vehicles, including Sgt. Richard Silva, sole survivor of his 2004 Marine unit in Iraq. Richard joined VCR’s motorcycle therapy family in 2016 as the recipient of an adapted rig from Chairman Jay Leno as part of the “Moto Dono” program. To make surprise moments like this possible, VCR partners with the White Heart Foundation to provide donors with a tax-deductible platform to raise funds and gift refurbished motorcycles and ATVs to meriting veterans. Other programs within VCR include family support, veteran mentoring, motorcycle safety courses, nutritious diet plans, physical therapy, and additional rides and activities scheduled throughout the year. “We emphasize special hands-on programs that truly engages veterans and their interest in doing and living a better life—one that each of them deserves,” Dave said.
With the annual ride to Sturgis taking place every July, VCR is hoping to establish a year-round motorcycle therapy ranch right here in Santa Clarita as it continues to expand. Dave believes SCV is full of community spirit and has the ideal location for routes along the coast, in the mountains, and through the desert. “We need sponsors and local business partners who share our vision and realize that it is really up to us, the community, to offer much needed assistance to the growing number of veterans that can benefit from health and wellness programs like Veterans Charity Ride,” he said.
To follow and support Veterans Charity Ride, visit www.veteranscharityride.org.
Photos By Sara Liberte