On an overcast afternoon at Toyota Field, the Ride Texas team arrived amid cheers for its first-ever stop in San Antonio. Twenty veterans have completed three full days of riding that started in Wichita Falls, on their 500-mile ride across Texas. The Ride Texas team will complete its journey in Corpus Christi on Veterans Day.
Jeff Wells, veteran and founder of the nonprofit organization WISH for OUR HEROES (W4OH), started the initiative seven years ago to help military families in need in communities across the country. WISH for OUR HEROES started with the goal of providing one wish for every deserving military member. There are no requirements – military members simply have to be on active-duty at the time the wish is submitted. The priority is to grant relief for basic needs or emergency situations first, such as groceries, car repairs, home repairs, baby supplies, or urgent medical bills.
The Ride Texas cycling team helps raise money in order for WISH for OUR HEROES to grant wishes for local military families in need, using locally raised funds.
“This is the sixth year we’re doing this ride,” Wells told the assembled crowd. “These veterans have been riding for four days in torrential rains at times, raising money to help grant a wish for a local military family.”
This is the first year Ride Texas made an official stop in San Antonio. Money raised here was used to grant the wish of locally based veteran John Arroyo.
Arroyo was shot during the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood and is now in San Antonio undergoing rehabiliation for his right arm, which was injured in the shooting. His wish granted today was payment in full for his wife’s extensive dental bills.
Arroyo joked how Wells never had the opportunity to command a company – which are typically about 100-120 strong – as an Army captain, but emphasized how much more impact on the lives of veterans Wells has had with WISH for OUR HEROES.
“Jeff now commands a battalion (about 500-700 soldiers) with this organization,” Arroyo told the audience.
With nearly 1,000 wishes granted since November of 2009, Wells told the crowd $15 million has been raised to date since the nonprofit’s inception, all of which has been used to address pressing needs for military families. The entire organization is run by volunteers, with no paid staff whatsoever.
Sponsors also provide donations in kind and funding to help grant wishes. Local insurance company SWBC supports the WISH for OUR HEROES organization, along with Spurs Sports & Entertainment, Warm Springs Rehabilitation Hospital in San Antonio, H-E-B, and Whataburger.
Sideline reporter Andrew Monaco emceed Thursday’s rally and welcomed Spurs point guard Tony Parker and assistant coach Becky Hammon, who each provided remarks at the event. The Spurs Coyote also made an appearance.
SWBC President Gary Dudley and SWBC Chairman Charlie Amato, co-founders of the company, emphasized their commitment to supporting veterans by asking SWBC spokespersons Parker and Hammon to attend the rally and meet with the veterans.
Roosevelt High School JROTC presented colors led in the Pledge of Alliance and the Air Force Cycling Team rode in with the Ride Texas team.
There are three ways to donate to Ride Texas, the bicycle team ride fundraiser for the WISH for OUR HEROES organization. You can text “America” to the number 20222 to make a $10 donation, use the organization’s Combined Federal Campaign code 51938, or donate directly on the Ride Texas team website here, or WISH for OUR HEROES website here.
The riders on this year’s team include:
John L. Carter