U.S. David Jolly supporting veterans bike ride

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A growing group of veterans and supporters are taking to the Pinellas Trail for physical and mental recovery.

A Pinellas County-area group, Project HERO (Healing Exercise Rehabilitative Opportunity), launched a cycling group in May that grows each week.

The group rides every Thursday from Seminole City Park on Ridge Road at 5:30.

The idea is to foster healing through physical activity. Cycling is great for injuries because it is low impact. Amputees can even ride. So can the visually impaired.

But it also helps veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“The mental health area is our largest source of riders,” said Mitch Lee, a ride leader with the group. “We have the case of our own rider who will tell you that with exercising and riding she finds herself able to cope with her issue.”

Congressman David Jolly will join the group this week before they hit the trail. According to a release from Jolly’s office, he’ll speak with veterans and reporters at 5pm.

The group expects the extra PR to attract more riders. Lee says he welcomes the traffic, but hopes to get the word out to other vets who could benefit from the ride. They also hope to attract volunteers who will stick with the group.

“If you’re looking for a fast ride, this isn’t for you,” Lee said.

The group rides about 15 miles at a pace everyone can handle. Sometimes that means keeping pace with inexperienced riders. But it’s worth it.

“We like riding with them just as much as they like riding with us,” Lee added.

Project HERO is part of a nationwide group called Ride 2 Recovery. That group is preparing for a 6-day, 425-mile ride from Boston to New York City at the beginning of September. Vets have to apply and be approved to join, but don’t have to pay. Non-Vets wanting to join that ride have to commit to $3,000 worth of donations. Lee so far has raised $15,000. The ride ends in New York City on September 11th under full law enforcement escort.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email [email protected]