On a sun-soaked afternoon at GEICO’s Virginia Beach office, GEICO volunteers and members of the public lined the sidewalk to cheer and show their support for a group of 200 Military members as they concluded the last leg of a demanding cycling journey that began four days earlier in Washington, D.C., as part of the 2015 Ride 2 Recovery Memorial Challenge.
In addition to emotional support, the riders—wounded, ill and injured troops and Veterans cycling to improve their health and wellness through Ride 2 Recovery—were welcomed to GEICO’s office with celebratory music and a robust lunch spread of pizza, salad, beverages and ice pops.
“The minute we turned we felt like we were coming home. There were employees lining the street, flags waving, cheering on,” said Joe Coddington, a Ride 2 Recovery rider. “The entire morale of the group lifted 90 percent. To come into this parking lot and see the tent, see the USO canteen and that big old GEICO sticker on the side was really cool.”
“You get tired and a little weak as the day goes by,” said Ashley Crandall, a Ride 2 Recovery rider. “Knowing that we had food, great music and great camaraderie—it’s a nice way to end the week. It’s nice to know that people haven’t forgotten us. They seemed genuinely happy to see us, and that’s not something that you come across that often.”
The day’s events were just what GEICO and the USO envisioned when they announced their worldwide strategic partnership in early 2015.
“Here in Virginia Beach we have our Military center, so it was a natural fit,” said Joe Thomas, GEICO regional vice president. “We asked for volunteers and the hands went flying in the air. Our Military associates’ mission every day is to talk to Military members around the world. Many of them themselves are part of Military families, have served actively or are still serving. [Ride 2 Recovery] is a special mission for them, it really means something. To our Military associates, this is as sweet as it gets.”
Smiles were abundant throughout the day, and despite some weary legs, a group of riders even summoned the strength after their meal to hop on the dance floor and get their “wobble” on alongside a group of GEICO volunteers.
As the riders got back on their bikes one last time to head to their hotel on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, heartfelt “thank yous” came pouring out—the hosts thanked the riders for their service, and the riders expressed gratitude for the warm welcome and hospitality. It became clear that the event meant more to everyone involved than a simple “thank you” could convey.
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By Alex DanoffPhoto by J. Stiver