By Lisa Irish | DC Courier | DCCourier.com | August 25, 2011
Dr. Chris Hummel's work with veterans and his father's involvement with The Ride for Semper Fi compelled him to sign up for the 430-mile ride Oct. 12-15 to benefit wounded service members.
Hummel, a clinical psychologist, helps residents of the domiciliary at the Bob Stump Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Prescott, and in the past worked with children whose parents were deployed.
"It's giving back to the people I serve," Hummel said. "There has to be a lot of different avenues to address all the things going on for veterans coming back."
Hummel's father, Larry, has helped with the fundraising ride from Scottsdale to San Diego since it began in 2008. "He drives the RV and carries water and food," said Hummel, adding that his mother, Shirley, prepares food and his nephews, Wesley, 8, and Nicholas, 4, hand out water and snacks at each stop.
John Greenway, the organizer and chairman of The Ride for Semper Fi, said he thought of the ride after attending his nephew's graduation from Marine boot camp at Camp Pendleton in San Diego.
"I'm realizing all these kids are going to Iraq and Afghanistan. They are making a commitment and sacrifice bigger than anything I'd ever done," Greenway said. "All of them will come back changed, some will be injured severely, and some will never come back. There was a distinct possibility I might never see my nephew again. This kid I'd taught to swim and ride a bike. I decided I had to do my part and came up with the idea for the ride."
The ride, which includes injured veterans, has grown from 15 riders the first year to 65 people this year, Greenway said.
"Lance Cpl. Angel Gomez, a Marine veteran who rode with us last year, was never expected to live," Greenway said. "He had to learn how to walk and talk again. He has trouble moving the right side of his body and holding onto the bike's handlebars, but he wouldn't give up. He raised everyone's spirits."
This year, U.S. Marine Cpl. Roy VanWey, who has had more than 140 surgeries after being burned over 80 percent of his body, will ride, Greenway said.
"People on the ride see up-close and personal the miracles that have happened for these young guys," Greenway said. "I don't think they're ever the same afterwards."
A bicyclist who helped Gomez drink water on the ride later came up to Greenway with tears streaming down his face and told him, "I get it now."
Although Hummel has taken part in fundraising events before, like the MS 150 bike ride for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, this is the first time he's done The Ride for Semper Fi. Money raised from the ride goes to the Semper Fi Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by Karen Guenther, a nurse and wife of a Marine. The fund has given away more than $50 million to wounded servicemembers and their families since 2004.
The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the military and their families, helping with travel to a loved one's bedside; van and home modifications; specialized and adaptive equipment; career assistance; and therapeutic arts. For more about the fund, go to www.semperfifund.org.
"After the physical injuries have healed, there are still things that need to be taken care of. They can't always do for themselves," Hummel said. "That's where Semper Fi Fund can really help families out, bring them back to some semblance of normalcy, and help them regain self-confidence and self-esteem."
Hummel hopes to raise $5,000 for the Semper Fi Fund, and noted people can donate by going to the website www.active.com/donate/RideforSemperFi2011/CHummel4 and email him questions at DrHummelPsyD@cox.net.
Hummel said he looks forward to the challenge and has a lot of support. He's also stepped up his training, regularly riding up Mingus Mountain.
"It helps people recognize that we'll put forth that effort to raise a significant amount of money for injured Marines and veterans," Hummel said.
For more about the ride, go to therideforsemperfi.com.