Sporting community: Nonprofit helps veterans stay active, re-create ‘brotherhood’ at Grass Valley event
Returning home from combat can bring struggle.
One veteran specifically linked the change with a loss of identity. Transitioning to a world where the same tight knit community — those who will sacrifice their life for you — is gone, along with the daily physical goals, has proven insurmountable for some.
In this context, Peter Way said he appreciates being able to compete in sports activities, like the mountain bike race this past weekend in Grass Valley. Way, an above-knee amputee who rides both hand and foot cycles, won the hand cycle competition as part of a three-day, private event. The veteran was at the competition with Team Semper Fi, a subsection of a nonprofit — the Semper Fi Fund — helping veterans mentally and physically recover.
“Team Semper Fi becomes a cornerstone of your life,” said Way, adding that the program has helped him regain a sense of identity and engage with the community in healthier ways.
The Semper Fi Fund has 2,000 mostly veteran service members who participate in, and host, a variety of mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, surfing, triathlon and marathon competitions each year, according to Brian McPherson, senior communications manager.
“As a marine, being active is your daily job,” said McPherson, which is why he’s proud to work for an organization providing competitions and activities to veterans for the last 15 years.
Veteran and mountain bike rider Arther Sykes engaged in this past weekend’s competition. Before riding, Sykes worked on the Las Vegas strip, where he said his outlets for fun were unhealthy. Since joining Team Semper Fi, his idea of enjoyment and relaxation expanded.
“I’d much rather sit on the top of the mountain in peace and nature and have that for myself versus the chaos and madness” of the strip, he said.
Now Sykes leverages the nonprofit’s motto “recovery through sport” and tries to recruit other veterans to partake in healthier, competition-friendly activities.
“If they can find something that is positive and healthy that is sustainable, I encourage people to do it,” he said.
McPherson said the Semper Fi Fund is continuing to promote community both between its members and with local community residents where its events take place.
Veteran Jeremy Lyons, who also rode at the weekend’s competition, said between being hosted for dinner at a Grass Valley resident’s home Monday night and competing with veterans, he feels like he’s part of a brotherhood.
“This is by far our favorite of any of the events,” said Lyons.
For Sykes, the veteran nonprofit helped him discover the joy of riding, thereby connecting him to the wider world, and a more meaningful identity.
“It’s my vehicle that gets me there — to nature, mountain biking and friendship,” he said.
Contact Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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