Day 3: 2017 UnitedHealthcare Memorial Challenge Blog

Presented by Boeing

Miles: 62     Total Miles: 166

June 1, 2017

Today we enjoyed a fabulous day of riding through the beautiful tree-lined country roads of the Old Dominion State on our 62-mile ride to Richmond. Along the way, we were cheered by schoolchildren, law enforcement, and local residents waving flags and cheering on the riders.  

Today was Sponsor Day. A day where we highlight the partners that make it all happen.  One of those activating on the route today was Hardee's.  They provided our lunch along with the USO by providing salads, drinks, chicken and apple pies. The local Hardee's is owned by Boddie-Noell Enterprises, a leading restaurant franchise operator with 432 restaurants in 4 states.  Regional Vice President of Operations John Smith and Bill Boddie Jr, Operations Services Manager, whose grandfather founded the company and whose father is CEO, were on hand to make sure we had everything we needed.

“We are really excited to be here to support our veterans,” said Smith, whose son currently serves his community as a Police Officer in Morrisville, NC. “This is our second year and we love doing this for those who serve us.”
“We can never really repay them as a company or a country for what they have done for us and we are so honored to support them,” said Smith.
Among the inspirational riders at this year’s Memorial Challenge is Gretchen Evans.  Gretchen served our country for 37 years in the Army and was with 9 combat deployments from Grenada through Afghanistan.  She sustained injuries from an explosion while serving in Kabul that left her totally deaf and with PTSD and TBI and retired as a Command Sergeant Major in 2008.

A native of Austin, Texas and currently a resident of Asheville, NC, Gretchen has been a life-long athlete and competed in distance running for the Army.  She first heard about Project Hero on a hiking challenge event when she was referred to Nate DeWalt, who encouraged her to take part in her first Project Hero event at this year’s Memorial Challenge -- after starting to ride bikes only six months ago!
Her message to her fellow Veterans is clear and simple: “Don’t let your injury be who you are.  We’re all fighting some challenge so don’t let it define you, don’t forget you are still the same person you were before that injury.  For me, I could think of myself as a deaf person who has been dealt a bad hand, but I just see it as having a different set of cards.”  
“There is a sense of peace I get when I am with this group,” she said.  I’m all about people getting better and it’s great to be a part of the solution with this Project Hero.”
In addition to the outstanding and extensive national media coverage of our send-off by Vice President and Mrs. Pence and VA Secretary Shulkin, some additional coverage of our ride includes:

Tomorrow, the ride heads to Colonial Williamsburg


Project Hero Partners — Who make it all possible