Veterans Find Healing in Ride 2 Recovery

Group photo of Veterans and VAPAHCS staff who participated in the ride.
Veterans from the Men's and Women's Trauma Recovery programs at Menlo Park division and VAPAHCS staff participated in the six-day ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Many Veterans have experienced the power of Recreation Therapy (RT) as a modality for healing.  RT is seen as a clinical intervention, treating physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual well-being. This is why six years ago, recreation therapist Melissa Puckett and readjustment counselor Gil Ramirez began a cycling program to serve as an active vehicle to assist in community reintegration, encourage exercise, improve physical fitness, and decrease isolation with the Veteran and active duty men and women she treats.

With the support of staff from the Men’s and Women’s Trauma Recovery programs at the Menlo Park division of the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), in 2011 the cycling team logged over 10,000 miles while preparing for the Ride 2 Recovery (R2R), by cycling daily and participating in local century and half-century rides around the Bay Area.

“Cycling is an important part of recovery and rehabilitation for many Veterans as regular physical activity improves mood, reduces depression, decreases anxiety, and helps better manage stress,” said Puckett.

This past year, seven residents and four staff (Melissa Puckett, Ashley Myers, Gil Ramirez, and Matt Robles) participated and completed the R2R. A total of 35 Veterans from the VAPAHCS rehabilitation programs have participated in the ride since its inception.

Rehabilitation program residents reported that they had re-discovered a belief they held about themselves before experiencing trauma with statements such as, “I am and I can be a productive member of society” or, “I can be a better human being, husband and a father; the ride helped me realize that about myself again.”

The Ride 2 Recovery California (R2R) Challenge is a six-day ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles (approx. 450 miles). Produced by the Fitness Challenge Foundation in partnership with the Military and VA Volunteer Service Offices, the R2R raises money to support Spinning Recovery Labs, and outdoor cycling programs at Military and VA locations around the U.S.

VAPAHCS has one of the largest and most dynamic Recreation Therapy Services in the country. Each day, the 59-member staff provides therapeutic programs as an integral part of the clinical treatment teams in extended care, mental health, fitness and wellness clinic, and specialty programs including the Homeless Veteran Rehabilitation Program, the Men’s and Women’s Trauma Recovery Program, Western Blind Rehabilitation Center, Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, and Spinal Cord Injury Center.

Learn more about VAPAHCS Recreation Therapy Service on their website.

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