2017 UnitedHealthcare Challenge Series kicks off with Beaches to Peaches Challenge

More than 100 injured Veterans, First Responders and their supporters from Project Hero took part in the 2017 UnitedHealthcare Beaches to Peaches Challenge, our seven-day bicycle ride covering more than 500 miles from Jacksonville to Atlanta from March 6 to 12.

The first UnitedHealthcare Challenge Series event of the year included stops in Yemassee, S.C., and Brunswick, Savannah, Augusta, Conyers and Atlanta, Ga. 

“Beaches to Peaches was an outstanding start to our Challenge series this year for Project Hero. We were impressed and inspired by the support we received from the public and communities throughout Georgia and Florida,” said John Wordin, “Everyone had a great experience.”
The non-competitive, therapeutic bike tour traveled nearly 500 miles throughout the region, from long flat country roads lined by elegant southern 0aks to the busy city streets of Savannah and Atlanta.   Overall, participants enjoyed great weather, except for some rain on the last day.  The Challenge was highlighted by an unforgettable visit to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, an afternoon at beautiful Queen Horse Bedding House and Stable in Allendale and an evening at the historic Pirates House in Savannah, GA.  
We made our first ever visit to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, hallowed ground for any Marine, riding onto the massive installation in style as a single group.  We were welcomed by the Base Commander Brig. Gen. Austin E. Renforth, who shook hands with each of our Marines and joined us for a memorable photo at the famous Iron Mike statue.  Following his truly inspiring remarks, we presented the General with a signed jersey.  It was a great moment for Project Hero, all the Marines with us and truly one of the highlights of this Challenge for all of us.  
Lunch at Queen Horse Bedding House and Stable in Allendale showcased one of those truly memorable locations for which our rides are known.  Built in 1852 and formerly named the Robwood Plantation, the property features a beautiful Victorian-styled house, and more than  500 acres and includes barns, pastures and a motocross track.  Trimmed with colorful azaleas and gorgeous trees, it was one of the most beautiful stops we have ever made on a Project Hero ride.   
The 2017 Beaches to Peaches Challenge was a valuable experience for the riders, earning high marks in the post-event rider survey for overall satisfaction, support for improved health and sleep habits and help in decreasing clinical drug use.  
“This one is challenging for me because I have had been on an increased chemo regiment after a relapse in 2016. Project Hero has helped me accept my disability and deal with it,” said Andrea Graham from Fayetteville, NC.  “I have to deal with cancer and I’m not going to stop doing what I do.  I’m going to control cancer and not let cancer control me.”  
Andrea  is an inspiration to all of us, a great rider and one of the outstanding supporters of Project Hero.  “We are only limited by the challenges we face each day and through cycling we can recover and heal together. Project Hero has brought so much to my life,” she said.  “It’s allowed me to accept my disability and continue to live a prosperous, healthy, happy life.” 
Also participating in the Challenge were VA mental health clinicians, including Cheri Deligo from Huntington, VA, whose goal is to improve support for those at risk of suicide.
“This event has an amazing talent for finding those in need who are in their darkest places, bringing them out and helping them heal,” she said.  
The Challenge earned extensive media coverage throughout the week and concluded in Atlanta with a reception hosted by UnitedHealthcare attended by state legislators and a member of Congress.  
“Our thanks go to our title sponsor UnitedHealthcare, the USO for their unflagging support and great lunches and all our great sponsors who made it possible to help Veterans and First Responders with PTSD heal,” said Wordin.

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