Vail Valley hosts Veterans Charity Ride as wounded combat warriors take some two-wheeled therapy
For fifth year of ride, 18 vets took the scenic route to the annual rally in Sturgis, South Dakota
EAGLE — There’s healing in the scenic route.
The Veterans Charity Ride rolls out from Salt Lake City, Utah, and takes the scenic route to the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally through the Vail Valley.
For this year, the ride’s fifth, 18 wounded combat veterans and their support vehicles took a quest across the West. Some rode for healing, some for others, mostly because motorcycles are fun. The vets rolled 1,600 miles over western back roads on Indian motorcycles and Champion sidecars to the annual Sturgis rally.
In one leg they rolled from Moab, Utah, up through Castle Valley and Glenwood Canyon and stopped in Eagle. People lined Eagle’s streets to wave American flags as the riders rolled past for a stop in the town park.
They ride to restore
“We get these guys and women out of the house on some powerful V-Twins and the open road works its magic,” said Dave Frey, who founded the Veterans Charity Ride with his wife Sue.
Frey cites several studies that prove recreational therapy helps veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and other injuries.
In the five years since the ride started, Indian Motorcycles and Champion sidecars have provided more than 80 wounded and amputee veterans with the gear. Veterans Charity Ride refurbishes and modifies motorcycles and ATVs, and gifts them to veterans for off-road rides along the way.
“We show the veterans just how much their service means to America, by stopping in towns along the way to meet the people of our grateful nation to celebrate these brave men and women,” Indian Motorcycles said in a statement.
Indian Motorcycles is thrilled to be rolling with these veterans, Reid Wilson, senior director of marketing and product planning for Indian Motorcycles said after last year’s ride.
“Veterans Charity Ride is a life-changing program for those who have sacrificed so much for our country. Supporting the U.S. military has always been core to our brand DNA, and it’s an honor to give back by supporting a noble cause,” Wilson said.
Some veterans, like Keith Helfrich, come back in following years to be veteran mentors or support crew.
“The ride is spectacular and the other veterans, our shared community, is really what this is all about,” Helfrich, a veteran mentor, and Army special forces veteran said. “We’re all in it together, and this ride creates lifelong bonds and friendships.”
Biker to biker
Frey, a military veteran, conceived the idea in 2014 while riding solo to the Sturgis rally. During that ride, he met a fellow paratrooper from his same unit. They talked about fellow veterans who were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and how so many are having a difficult time adjusting to civilian life after their war experiences.
During a long motorcycle ride, you have time to unwind your mind. On his ride home from Sturgis that year, Frey decided he wanted to do something special for his fellow veterans. People do what they know. Frey was born into his family’s motorcycle business and grew up on motorcycles.
He shared his ideas with his business partner Robert Manciero, an Emmy Award-winning producer and director. They created the Veterans Charity Ride and decided to film it.
Frey had fallen in love with his new Indian Chieftain, so they contacted Indian Motorcycles. Indian jumped in from the start. Then the two men reached out to Craig Arrojo, president of Champion Sidecars. Arrojo also jumped in.
Frey and his wife, Sue, have expanded their program to include year-round support services for the veterans who join them on the ride. Among their many programs, Frey keeps some Indian motorcycles and six Champion sidecars around to take veterans on rides throughout the year, in addition to the annual ride to Sturgis.
Eagle County Schools added six mental health counselors and the district will add two more school resource officers, according to the school district’s 2019-2020 budget book. The district also aised starting pay and gave staffers a 2.3% cost-of-living raise.