- On July 25, Soldier Ride
will once again return to the place where it all began on the East End of Long Island. What began as a 'far-fetched' idea to help raise money for a wounded veteran here on Long Island, has since become one of the largest fundraising and rehabilitative events to benefit returning veterans of the armed services.
"I had no idea it was going to be as big as it is now," said Chris Carney of Soldier Ride during a recent interview.
"I had no idea it was going to be as big as it is now," said Chris Carney
, the guy who helped start this event along with friends at the Stephen Talkhouse
when he first rode his bicycle from Montauk to California in 2004.
"It all started as a far-fetched idea, and I expected it to get dismissed right away. When it didn't get dismissed it was like they called my bluff on it. We said if we raise a certain amount of money it was going to be a go and they raised the money and from there it just kept kind of mushrooming."
According to Nick Kraus
, another key player who now does much of the marketing for Soldier Ride on top of several other charity events he's involved with, it all began one night at the Talkhouse while the two were discussing with Stephen Talkhouse Managing Partner Peter Honerkamp
, the best way to do an event that would raise the most money to help wounded veterans. "Chris said to Peter, 'I'll ride my bicycle across the country and raise money,'" Kraus recalled. "So we set up a little card table that night and got people to sponsor him for each mile. We raised a few thousand dollars that people pledged that night so now it was like Chris had to do it, it wasn't just bar talk anymore and 4,000 miles and $1 million dollars later - Soldier Ride began."
Heath Calhoun, Ryan Kelley and Chris Carney in Montauk at the finish of the 2005 ride, which began in California before ending in New York.
Interestingly, Carney wasn't even much of a cycle enthusiast before doing the first Soldier Ride five years ago. "I actually hadn't really ever cycled at all before I took off on the ride. I had done some small rides, as in I had a bike and had ridden it like everyone else and I had done a small ride in the city for MS, but I was far from a cyclist," said Carney. "Now I've gone coast to coast so I feel like I've experienced about everything there is to do with riding a bike on the road. It's all been an experience."
Starting in 2007, the format of Soldier Ride switched over from a national event to a series of regional ones in order to give the rides more local exposure. "It started becoming an overwhelming task for us to coordinate so now we do segmented rides over maybe like three or four days," said Kraus. "That way we could plan them out and have them every three or four weeks and it won't take us away from our jobs."
Beginning on Thursday, July 23, Soldier Ride will begin in Manhattan at Macy's Herald Square, where actor Matthew Modine
will ride along with 30 wounded warriors from Macy's to Central Park, down the West Side Highway and across to Brooklyn. On Friday, the event will move to Babylon, where riders will being at town hall and ride to Overlook Beach where there will be the second annual "Wounded Warrior Appreciation Day in Ocean Beach." Finally, the three-day ride will culminate in the Soldier Ride Hamptons Fundraiser, which starts at the American Legion
in Amagansett, heads to Sag Harbor and then finishes back in Montauk. This year, Saturday's segment of the ride is held in memory of USMC Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter
who was killed in action in Ramadi, Iraq
on April 22, 2008. Along with 27 Marines from Haerter's platoon stationed at Camp Lejeune, actor Dan Aykroyd
will be joining Modine and the wounded veterans in honoring the sacrifice laid down by our servicemen and women in overseas conflict.
Soldier Ride champion Chris Carney and participating veterans during the Soldier Ride event in 2005.
"When I go to these events now I see a whole new group of guys each year and it's bittersweet because it's great that we're touching that many more veterans but at the same time there are that many more guys getting hurt," explained Carney. "They keep coming in everyday, and we can't get jaded as a country or get used to that fact. I just feel it is important we don't forget about them."
Following the ride, there will be a free concert in Amagansett Square across from the Talkhouse from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. featuring music by the Weisstronauts
. "It's basically a chance for everyone, both the soldiers and the public, to kick back and relax and provides another opportunity for people to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project
," said Kraus.
Following the free concert at 6 p.m. is the Rock the Farm
after ride party in East Hampton, with special musical guests Dan Aykroyd
, Booga Sugar
, Nancy Atlas
For more information on these events, as well as enrollment forms, routes and opportunities to donate, visit www.sr.woundedwarriorproject.org and www.rockthehamptons.org.