Man rides bicycle from East Tenn. to Fla. supporting Wounded Warrior Project
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Broyles said he felt like a million dollars.
If people would donate even one tiny fraction of that amount to support his bicycle riding adventure benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project, he would feel even better.
Broyles stopped at the Kroger on Watkins Road in Maryville Sunday afternoon to receive a proclamation from Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor, honoring his journey of a 1,200-mile, two-week long bicycle ride from the mountains of East Tennessee to the sandy beaches of Key West, Fla.
Ron’s Ride, as Broyles’ mission is titled, supports the Wounded Warrior Project, which raises awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members.
Broyles, 59, who works in maintenance for Kroger locations all over Knoxville and the surrounding area, started the ride Sunday morning in Sevierville and rode through Sevier County, and will finish each day’s ride at a Kroger store in cities along the route through Savannah, Ga., and planned stops in other cities, ending the ride in Key West on Sept. 8, ironically Broyles’ 60th birthday.
Ron’s Ride will live stream video to an online blog and be covered on social media. Along with the 16 start-to-finish cities, there will also be 42 rest stops where water, snacks and information about the ride and the Wounded Warrior Project will be provided.
This is not Broyles’ first rodeo. Ten years ago, Broyles rode his bicycle across the country from Los Angeles to Hampton, Va., in memory of two men struck and killed by a drunk driver.
“Everyone going down the road seeing what we’re doing is just awesome,” Broyles said after the proclamation was read. “We are enjoying the freedoms we do today because of what those men and women did for us. We are going to try to make some awareness.
“The VA is overwhelmed, and there are hundreds of men and women trying to get in,” Broyles continued. “The bottom line is it’s a good cause and everyone wants to get involved.”
Broyles said he started bicycle riding as a child, but got serious during his time in the Navy where he befriended a man who was a serious rider, and went with him on what he called “one adventure after another.”
“In 2003, I rode my bike across the country, and that was on my 50th birthday,” Broyles said, “As I’m coming up on my 60th birthday, I wanted to do another big adventure and I was looking around for some causes, and a friend of mine said ‘Did you know since the beginning of the first Gulf War in 1990, 65,000 veterans committed suicide?’ That’s more than what died in Vietnam, and that is totally unacceptable. The Wounded Warriors Project seems to be a great organization, and they’re getting help out to men and women who need it.”
Broyles said the most money raised by any individual is $29,000. “I hope to do more than that,” he said.
Broyles traveled 55 miles as of Sunday morning. He was to spend Sunday evening in Etowah, with stops along the way in Atlanta, Savannah, Jacksonville and Miami, among other smaller cities, and ultimately Key West.
Teresa Barnes, who is employed as a dog groomer in Kodak in Sevier County, is taking a month off from work to drive a support vehicle for Broyles during his journey as part of the Ron’s Ride support team.
She will help provide food, water and is arranging police escorts and managing Twitter accounts and web pages.
“A friend of ours started organizing (the cause), and asked me if I wanted to help raise money, and I said yes, it sounds like fun,” Barnes said. “I’m looking forward to driving on the back roads and going through the little towns, seeing things you normally don’t see going 70 miles an hour down the interstate.”
Supporters will join in the ride along the route. A local Wounded Warrior will be featured in the day’s coverage.
“I hope I have another one of these left in me,” Broyles said with a laugh. “I love being out on the road. I would like do something at 70, but we’ll have to wait and see.”