The Southern California Colavita Regional Team is ten years old this year! To commemorate a decade of riding and racing together, promoting the Colavita brand, and bringing hundreds of new enthusiasts into our extended cycling family, we are embarking on a mission to help our nation’s veterans. In addition to continuing our efforts to grow the lifestyle and sport of cycling in Southern California, in 2013-2014 we are using our voices, lungs, and legs to help raise awareness of the plight of homeless veterans suffering from the invisible wounds of war by entering into a unique partnership with U.S. Veterans Initiative (U.S VETS).
Over two million military service members have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). One in six veterans who served in these conflicts are returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, combat-related psychological injuries, or traumatic brain injury. These invisible wounds, coupled with higher rates of addiction and unemployment, increase their risk of becoming one of the 62,000 homeless veterans in our nation. Add to this the shocking statistic that 22 veterans are committing suicide every day, and the result is an overwhelmed Veterans Administration (VA) system that is unable to provide the care needed by this steadily-increasing population. In fact, over the next three years, the number of male and female veterans returning home while dealing with the effects of psychological trauma is expected to exceed 300,000 individuals – a number of wounded veterans far beyond the capabilities of VA to serve.
For 20 years, U.S. VETS has been providing critical services to homeless veterans in need. Today, this national, non-profit organization helps more than 5,000 homeless and at-risk veterans each year by providing access to essential medical care, mental health counseling, job training, transitional housing, continuing education, mentoring, and other supportive services. Working with VA facilities and other veteran service organizations across the country, U.S. VETS provides a critical lifeline to veterans struggling with chronic homelessness, addiction, and physical and mental illness. Unique and innovative projects like the residential women’s ADVANCE program and the community college-based Outside The Wire program bring critical care to veterans and their families who are dealing with the effects of military sexual trauma, combat trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, and traumatic brain injury.
Yet, for all their years of serving at-risk veterans, U.S. VETS and the work they do is relatively unknown in our communities.
This is where the Southern California Colavita Regional Team will help. Over the coming months, we will be helping U.S. VETS increase awareness of the scope and importance of their services and programs to our communities, our veterans, and our veterans’ families. With support from Colavita, Rudy Project, Jamis Bicycles, JRA Bikes & Brew, Better-Biking.com, and Castelli, members of the Southern California Colavita Regional Team will attend a series of events in Western U.S. promoting the sponsors’ brands, raising awareness of the plight of veterans affected by the invisible wounds of war, and building support for U.S. VETS’ programs and services.
The new partnership will be launched with the production of a limited number of special team jerseys, shorts, and vests made exclusively by Castelli. With the purchase of each special team jersey, shorts, or vest, the Southern California Regional Team will donate $10 to US VETS. Watch for details on how to order these special commemorative kits.
Stay tuned for additional details on the special team’s event schedule, groups rides, and publicity activities at www.Better-Biking.com, Facebook.com, and www.Colavita.com.
About The Author
Aaron Hanson (a.k.a The Cap’n) is manager of the Southern California Colavita Regional Amateur Team. A 25-year veteran of the sport and lifestyle of cycling, Aaron has raced both road and mountain bikes, advocated for bicycle transportation funding and facilities at the city, county, state, and federal levels, planned and facilitated numerous bicycle events, and helped several municipalities and counties create viable bikeway master plans.
Aaron has been honored by IMBA, CORBA, Clif Bar, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Ventura, the City of Simi Valley, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate for his bicycle advocacy work. He has even won a bike race or two.
Aaron can be contacted via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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