A heat wave wasn’t going to halt the passion inside riders looking to make a difference. Between biking in Babylon and in Amagansett, Long Island cyclists raised over $100,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Those in the Hamptons showed their support July 20 during the 16th annual Soldier Ride fundraiser by biking alongside over 50 veterans. Saturday’s attendees accounted for over $25,000 of the total funds that benefit the nonprofit, which provides mental health services, career counseling, and long-term rehabilitative care to servicemen and women free of charge.
“It’s been an inspiring few days in New York,” said Jon Blauvelt, public relations specialist with the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Hamptons course cruised along 25 miles of beaches, waterfronts, and farmland beginning in Amagansett and moving west to Sag Harbor. Bridgehampton resident Maxwell Spooner was first to cross the finish line in 1 hour, 46.5 minutes.
“Many of these inspiring individuals come home with physical wounds you can see, and invisible wounds like traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, and depression,” said Spooner, a club coordinator with Flywheel Sports. “Because they’ve risked everything for us, I’m committed to raising awareness and funds for these wounded service members and their caregivers.”
He was accompanied by Nick Saunders, a Bridgehampton junior and member of the varsity basketball team, who finished second in donations, raising $2,395.
“He impressed me with his steadfast ability to conquer the 25-mile route,” Spooner said of Saunders. “Although the event wasn’t competitive in nature, I felt a great deal of pride and honor as I sped down Old Montauk Highway nearing the Amagansett Farm. It was also a very eye-opening experience being able to converse with the warriors, hear their stories, and unabatingly cycling through normally hyper-congested Hamptons streets in July alongside the men and woman who’ve sacrificed their physical health and well-being.”
East Hampton resident Nicholas Kraus was also moved seeing the soldiers’ journeys across the weekend. The co-owner of Amagansett’s Stephen Talkhouse has participated in Wounded Warrior Project events across the country since the New York Soldier Ride’s inception.
“It’s amazing to see the positive change in the warriors,” Kraus said. “Watching a person making a change of course in their life for the better that I had a little part of is a great takeaway. When I say ‘I’ had a little part of it, it’s because the whole community makes this happen. Despite the terrible heat we had a great turnout of volunteers, supporters, and riders.”