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Operation Velo
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 8/9/2007
Operation Velo
 

Operation Velo
Actor - Cyclist Jack Scalia to ride from Seattle to San Diego in a 1500 mile group fundraising ride. Cycling with your heart and Hollywood for a great cause.

On July 11th during the tour de France a press conference was held at a one of Southern California's posh Italian restaurants I'l Forniao. The Press conference was called by Jack Scalia to announce his intention of a fund raising effort in support of wounded American troops with in a 15 day ride starting on September 24th  down the 1500 miles of the scenic Pacific Coast Highway from Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California.


Jack Scalia lays out the goals for Operation Velo for the assembled press.

Scalia hopes to inspire others to get involved as he raises awareness and funding for the severely injured troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. During Operation American Spirit' s inaugural event beginning September 24, Cyclists are encouraged to collect pledges and ride with the actor/cyclist in the ride, who knows what other Hollywood/Cyclists will join the parade down the Pacific Coast. Operation Velo will also be organizing fundraising events in cities along the route, an on-line auction, golf tournament later this year; and even the chance to win Jack's well worn bike after the ride.

Cyclists will be able to join up at any point during the fundraising ride with Jack and other actors and celebrities for one or more legs of the route as they make the jaunt from Seattle next month. There will also be events along the way


Left to right, Jack Kemp, Jack Scalia, John Wordin and Edra Bixseth.

Among those on hand to support Jack, with the kick off press event in were Edra Blixseth, who organized major fundraisers for 9-11 families and Katrina victims raising more than $175 million total, soldiers Mike McNaughton, Ryan Kelly, and Heath Calhoun, former California Congressman Jack Kemp, former pro rider and Jack's cycling coach John Wordin and Olympic gold medalist Quincy Watts. 

Jack Kemp pledged to support the effort with a cash donation and appropriately with a 13 year professional football veteran, 4 tickets for the Super Bowl to be auctioned later. Kemp commented he was proud and felt it was his duty to help the wounded veterans rebuild their lives in any way he could.


Actor Mike Vogel one of the many Hollywood celebrities to support Operation Velo

The project is also supported by actor’s Bruce Willis, Gary Sinese, Jon Voight, Lee Ermey, Mariel Hemingway, Kurt Russel, Tim Allen, Actor Cyclist: James Cromwell, Tim Allen, Rick Dees, Mary Hart, and Mike Vogel (who lost a cousin in Iraq), former Congress member's Connie Mack, Mary Bono, and California Senator’s Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein. A documentary of the journey is planned which will air nationally. Others: Tommy Lasorda, US Navy Prosthetics Director Peter Harsch, and soldiers Melissa Stockwell, Mike McNaughton, Ryan Kelly, and Heath Calhoun.

The very fit 57 year old veteran actor and producer, in an interview before the presentation said the inspiration came for project came to him during a morning indoor spinning session on his bike. Scalia commented, “Our nation has asked our soldiers and their families to make sacrifices and they have... now it is our turn, as Americans, to step up and help them when they need it. I decided that something ought to be done to help and made up my mind while I was riding that morning that I could do something about it." 

The actor started his working life as an athlete as a pitcher with the Montreal Expos. His career ended abruptly after a career ending shoulder injury; but he continued to be active as an athlete running marathons and later triathlons. Later the popular actor took up spinning and in the last several months taken his legs to the road to train for the long ride to San Diego; he looks fit enough for the ride at the moment to do the 100 miles a day required and may be hard to keep up with along the way. Jack spoke with a quiet excitement as he talked about his 30 mph training sessions behind former pro rider John Wordin. Currently he is working on his skills riding in the peloton in group rides near his home.

Scalia was quick to make the point that the effort had nothing to do with politics commenting, this isn't about politics its about helping the men who we asked to go in harms way and to help make them whole and help them return to an active life. Since the beginning of the project Jack said, he was pleased to have the support of good people on all sides of the political spectrum.

Scalia's goal with Operation Velo hopes to raise up to $50 million dollars over the next few years. "Our mission is to help make a difference in the lives of soldiers and their families by providing support and funding during and after rehabilitation including ongoing programs, mentoring, scholarships, job and trade assistance, home modification, and activities and outings to improve morale."  The money will be distributed through grants to groups working to support the return of injured veterans to an active life.


Quincy Watts, Robert "BJ" Jackson, Donny Daughenbaugh and Mike Vogel

Veterans Robert "BJ" Jackson going by the nickname of "stubs" and Donny Daughenbaugh were on hand as representatives of www.saluteheroes.org that runs programs to support the injured back to a life of activity. Both are inspirational examples of what can be accomplished as both faced life changing injuries and both have returned to a full life,

On August 7, 2003, his first day off in over a month, the Humvee that B.J. was driving through the city of Baghdad, hit a landmine. After being stabilized, B.J. was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX to begin treatment for severe burns and the loss of both legs below the knees.

B.J. joined the Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes in 2004 as a National Spokesperson. While he now jokes that he'll probably never have a career in roofing again, he is able to inspire other wounded services members with his belief that no matter what the circumstance may be, there are no limits to what a person can do. Currently, B.J. lives in Iowa with his wife, Abby, and their three children.

The Soldiers Independence Fund has been established through the Fitness Challenge Foundation (501C3) to provide for the needs of military members and their families who have suffered significant injuries as a result of combat.  The Fitness Challenge Foundation is teaming up with Jack because mobility is key to the quality of one’s life. It is essential to the mental and physical fitness and health of any individual.

Mission Statement
To help make a difference in the lives of soldiers and their families by providing support and funding during and after rehabilitation in ways that teach them self-sufficiency.

Goals:
Provide financial assistance to soldiers and their families
Improve post injury care, counseling, and services for soldiers and families
Provide educational, job, and trade assistance
Actor to start cycle of giving
Bike trip to help injured veterans

Scalia departs Sept. 24 from Seattle and plans to arrive in San Diego on Oct. 7, with stops at military bases and VA hospitals along the way.
September 24 - Day 1 Seattle to Centralia - Washington
September 25 - Day 2 Centralia to Portland Oregon
September 26 - Day 3 Portland to Monroe
September 27- Day 4 Monroe to Reedsport
September 28 - Day 5 Coos Bay to Brookings
September 29 - Day 6 Brookings to Arcata - California
September 30 - Day 7 Eureka to Ft. Bragg
October 1- Day 8 Ft. Bragg to Santa Rosa
October 2 - Day 9 San Francisco to Castroville
October 3 - Day 10 Monterey to San Luis Obispo
October 4 - Day 11 San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara
October 5 - Day 12 Santa Barbara to Westwood
October 6 - Day 13 Westwood to Anaheim
October 7 - Day 14 Anaheim to San Diego

Please visit OperationVelo.org for more information or to be active in the ride.
Public service announcements are available for viewing: View the 10 second PSA (Quicktime) View the 30 second PSA (Quicktime) View the Press Conference (Quicktime)

Links:
Jack Scalia
Salute to American Heroes


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