This past week, I was honored to once again donate my services as the official photographer for The Ride for Semper Fi (Ride430.com) for the fourth year in a row. The group rides bicycles 430 miles over four days from Scottsdale, AZ to San Diego, CA raising money and awareness for a cause I hold dear. As a rider in the event’s inaugural year, I have seen the charity event grow tremendously over the years. Beginning with 22 riders who raised $74,000, by this its fifth year, the riders had grown to 64 and the total funds raised for the year were $500,000! The money raised goes to help fill the gaps between what the government can offer and the needs of injured service members and their families, re-integration of recovering former military members, and to the surviving children of those who have fallen in the line of duty. The line up of beneficiaries has expanded over the years from the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund to also include the MARSOC Foundation and the very deserving Knights of Heroes Foundation.
I am humbled each year at the unimaginable stories of heroism, selflessness, and courage of so many who are involved in or touched by the efforts that these superb men and women make each year. I am grateful to be able to make my services of use in their marketing efforts, and to help reward the participants. Each year a few recovering Marines and Air Force personnel ride in the group or among the support staff. This year two family members of aMarine who had lost his life in truly heroic service earlier this year rode in the event. Of the photo below, the one of the repeat participants, year round racer, and Ride Captain, Michael Radcliff wrote: “Far and away the hardest day I have ever been through on a bicycle. Seeing that Mrs. M was smiling will make me remember it differently.”
Four days. 430 miles. 14,000 feet of climbing. Constant high winds this year, with gusts of 35 mph.
The high point of the ride, the mountaintop town of Julian, CA was literally in the clouds on Day 3.
I have no idea how to end this blog post, given the emotional impact that being a part of this event has had on me, each year more meaningful than the next. Suffice to say, I would be remiss to fail to mention my gratitude and admiration for the ride’s founders John Greenway and LtCol Paul Thompson, Don and Amber Eldridge of the outstanding DNA Cycles shops around the Phoenix area, the selfless volunteers who make all the event’s logistics click, the sponsors, the donors, and the military members and their families who give so much more than could reasonably be asked. Thank you!
You can find more of my photos from the first three days of this year’s ride, television news stories, and participants’ pictures on the team’s Facebook page.
UPDATE: I wanted to draw attention to this blog post by First Solar, one of the RFSF/Ride430 event’s fine sponsors.