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Wednesday
Aug132014

World T.E.A.M. Sports Remembers Contributor Robin Williams

By Richard Rhinehart

Holbrook, NY, August 13, 20014 – Actor Robin Williams told World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Jeff Messner that he had one condition for his participation in the non-profit’s 2010 Sea to Shining Sea bicycle ride. He would attend the ride’s start in San Francisco, not for his personal gratification or for media coverage, but to honor the participating injured veterans.

“During the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea, Robin attended the pre-ride dinner and then joined the group for the first day’s ride,” said current World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Van Brinson, who rode the cross-country ride as one of the team leaders. “He was as funny on the bike as he was on the screen and as approachable.”Sea to Shining Sea ride leader Van Brinson, now CEO and President for World T.E.A.M. Sports, poses with actor Robin Williams on the first day of the 2010 cross-country bicycle ride. Photograph courtesy Van Brinson.

Ambassador Paul Bremer, a lifetime State Department employee who rode the Sea to Shining Sea, remembers Williams participating in the ride in his 2011 book, “From Sea to Shining Sea: Biking Across America with Wounded Warriors.”

“Robin Williams, who had attended the send-off dinner at the Presidio the night before, made good his promise to join the group at our first water stop across the bridge in Sausalito.  Williams has often traveled overseas to entertain American troops in war zones and as we rode northwest, he amused our riding group with the wise cracks, constant comments and the instant repartee for which he is famous.  He proved to be an experienced and engaging riding partner for 15 miles when we arrived at our next water stop.

“On the first day we encountered our first hills shortly after Williams joined us in Sausalito, enough to challenge some of the riders, especially those who had not been able to train on hills.  As a result, the ride group started to break into smaller bunches riding at different speeds.

“Williams left us at the second water stop, in Fairfax.  He noted, as he headed off to find a good cup of espresso, that the previous hills we had ridden were ‘nothing’ compared to the ones we would hit just north of Fairfax, cheerfully adding that was why he was leaving us.”

Although Williams had insisted on his participation being a surprise to the participating veterans, the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea was not his first event with World T.E.A.M. Sports. Williams’ close personal friendship with actors Christopher and Dana Reeve, both World T.E.A.M. Sports board members until their deaths, encouraged him to contribute to the non-profit.Robin Williams brings laughter to the riders at the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports. Tony Avelar/AP Images for State Farm/World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Williams “knew our organization well, as did his second wife, Marsha Garces,” remembered World T.E.A.M. Sports’ founding executive director Stephen Whisnant. “His first involvement was donating to our annual signature event - the Bicycle Auction. I always believed he connected that very first time because of their involvement and partnership with us and the fact they were on our board. All I had to do was mention Chris' name and we had Robin's attention.”

Whisnant recalled that Williams continued his support of World T.E.A.M. Sports in the coming years following the 1997 auction. “He also was with us for the kickoff of the first Face of America in 2000 which had a team leave San Francisco and one in Boston and converge in St. Louis. Robin rode with us that morning out of San Francisco and was recognized by Mayor Willie Brown – this created lots of press because of his attendance.”

Noting that Williams “donated a bicycle every year we asked him,” Whisnant called him “a significant friend to World T.E.A.M. Sports.”

“Mr Williams was genuinely a nice guy and a friend to this organization,” agreed Brinson. “He will be missed.”

Robin Williams admires injured veteran Eric Frazier’s hand cycle during the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports. Tony Avelar/AP Images for State Farm/World T.E.A.M. Sports.

Friday
May312013

Sea to Shining Sea Finisher Honored by West Virginia County 

By Richard Rhinehart

Martinsburg WV, May 31, 2013 – At a special May 30 ceremony, Berkeley County, West Virginia Commissioners recognized World T.E.A.M. Sports Sea to Shining Sea finisher Sgt. Glenn Goulet for his service and dedication by awarding him the county’s Excellence in Community Service Award for June. The retired Army veteran was honored for his service to the country, his volunteer service to the local non-profit Apollo Civic Theatre, his timely organization of a 2011 Thanksgiving meal for the Knights of Columbus and his ongoing participation in events with veterans, including the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea cross-country ride.Commissioner Elaine Mauck presents Glenn Goulet with the Excellence in Community Service Award. Photograph by Bertha Kreider.

At a ceremony in Berkeley County Council Chambers in Martinsburg, the commissioners presented Goulet with a special commemorative certificate. “Cowboy Glenn” wore his signature white hat and Sea to Shining Sea jersey for the occasion.

“I try to stay active in the community because I cannot sit around home and bounce off the walls from my PTSD and from my injuries,” said Goulet, who was injured during his service in Panama. “Doing good for others in my life is an honor. I cannot do everything, but a little effort goes a long way.”Glenn Goulet stands in front of the historic Apollo Civic Theatre in Martinsburg. Photograph by Bertha Kreider.

Participating in the two-month Sea to Shining Sea bicycle ride in the summer of 2012, Goulet and 13 injured veterans overcame challenges along the route, including high mountain passes, unfriendly drivers and record heat in the Great Plains and American Midwest. The team successfully finished their journey in Virginia Beach, Virginia July 28. Goulet has participated in other outdoor sporting events with veterans, including World T.E.A.M. SportsFace of America ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg and bicycle rides with the non-profit Ride 2 Recovery.

Goulet serves a director for Martinsburg’s Apollo Civic Theatre, a historic downtown theater that opened in 1914 for Vaudeville and continues to offer live theatrical productions. As Vice President of Facilities, Goulet is involved with the daily management of the building and the property.

A Grand Knight with the Knights of Columbus fraternal organization, Goulet stepped up in 2011 when the organizers of the Martinsburg Thanksgiving meal decided to cancel the annual event. “I couldn't imagine my grandmother showing up for a meal,” he recalled, “finding the doors locked and no meal.” With the assistance of Marie Keagan, Goulet gathered 20 professional chefs and “over 200 volunteers” to prepare meals. The Knights served dinner to 800 people that Thanksgiving Day, with “the left overs feeding the Knights of Columbus Monday night meals for a month.”

In addition to the certificate and the recognition ceremony, Berkeley County will add Goulet’s name to the Excellence in Community Service Award plaque, displayed in the County Commissioner’s Office in Martinsburg.

Glenn Goulet with Vietnam Veteran Steve Miller. A three time Face of America participant, Miller is a Purple Heart recipient. Photograph by Bertha Kreider.The Glenn Goulet Sea to Shining Sea poster and the award certificate. Photograph by Bertha Kreider Berkely County Commissioners pose with Glenn Goulet. From front right to left is Tony Petrucci, Glenn Goulet, and Elaine Mauck. Back row, right to left, is Doug Copenhaver, Jim Whitacre, and James Barnhart. Photograph by Bertha Kreider.

Thursday
May302013

Mike Claver Honored by World T.E.A.M. Sports

By Richard Rhinehart

Bloomington IL, May 30, 2013 - Retiring State Farm Insurance employee Mike Claver was honored today by World T.E.A.M. Sports for his exceptional dedication and ongoing efforts with the non-profit organization's bi-annual Sea to Shining Sea cross-country ride with injured veterans.

Van Brinson, left, presents MIke Claver with a special plaque in appreciation of his efforts in support of the Sea to Shining Sea ride. Helen Claver looks on. Photograph courtesy Van Brinson.At a ceremony at State Farm's Bloomington, Illinois national headquarters, World T.E.A.M. Sports Chief Operations Officer Van Brinson presented Claver with a plaque for his efforts with the 2010 and 2012 Sea to Shining Sea rides.

"Your tireless effort and dedication have made the Sea to Shining Sea Ride a powerful tribute to the brave men and women of the American Armed Forces," reads the plaque.

A 26-year-employee of State Farm Insurance, Claver provided critical support throughout the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea ride, and served as the ride director for the 2012 ride. Each ride, sponsored by State Farm, included a team of injured veterans who rode bicycles, hand cycles and recumbant biycles across North America.

Although Claver is retiring from his daily duties at State Farm, he will keep busy through teaching a class at Illinois State University. He also has indicated he will remain active with World T.E.A.M. Sports in future inclusive events for disabled and able-bodied persons.

Planning is currently underway for the next Sea to Shining Sea ride, scheduled for 2015. Injured veterans are encouraged to contact World T.E.A.M. Sports if they have interest in receiving selection information for the two month cross-country ride when it becomes available.

Tuesday
May282013

Sea to Shining Sea Ride Director Retiring from State Farm Insurance

By Richard Rhinehart

Bloomington, IL May 28, 2013 – A key member of two cross-country bicycle rides with injured military veterans is retiring from his full time position with State Farm Insurance June 1.  Mike Claver, who served as a staff member for the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea ride and as ride director for the 2012 ride from World T.E.A.M. Sports, is retiring after 26 years with the national insurance company.Ride Director Mike Claver leads the Sea to Shining Team in a morning prayer in Denver, June 2012. Parker Feierbach photograph.

Following Claver’s participation in the 2010 ride from San Francisco to Virginia Beach, he reported his life would never be the same after watching the 18 veterans cross America. “Every single day there was a moment that reached out and touched the place in my heart where the lumps in my throat and the tears in my eyes live,” Claver recalled. “Those moments have burrowed deep into my memory and have kept me warm; souvenirs of a time in my life when I was in the company of greatness; when I knew the courage it sometimes takes to go on, to refuse to surrender to the circumstances of living with their injuries and memories of war.”

Recruited by then-World T.E.A.M. Sports CEO and President Paul Bremer, and COO Van Brinson for the role of ride director for the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride, Claver was permitted by State Farm to work full time on the ride to create and manage logistics for a successful cross-country journey. His retirement June 1 from his position as Superintendent – Administrative Services for State Farm will mark the end of a successful career with the agency.

Mike Claver assists in folding an American flag at a stop in Illinois, Sea to Shining Sea, July 2012. Parker Feierbach photograph.“I came to know Mike when on behalf State Farm he led a group of 16 wounded warriors across America by bicycle in 2010 - From Sea to Shining Sea,” said Bremer. “Mike was the sparkplug that just kept firing all through the difficult and often frustrating 64 days of this adventure.  Like so many other undertakings during his life, Mike's contribution was essential, his willingness to help others unstoppable and his good humor ever present.  I join with the thousands of people all over America who have been touched by Mike Claver's professionalism, humility and simply love of country in wishing him the happiest of retirements.”

Joining State Farm as a Supervisor Trainee in 1986, Claver served in several positions with the Illinois and regional offices, as well as the corporate headquarters. As a former volunteer firefighter with the Danvers Fire Department, he became involved with State Farm’s Emergency Management and Business Continuity office.  Through his role, he has helped managed catastrophes for the agency ranging from hurricanes to tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and hail storms.

Mike Claver stands at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, near the conclusion of the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride. Van Brinson photograph.Yet, it is Claver’s work with World T.E.A.M. Sports that has had the greatest impact on lives. In his role with the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride, Claver managed the day-to-day logistics and scheduling for the ride, as well as managing a team of staff and college interns. Representing both World T.E.A.M. Sports and State Farm on his two-month cross-country journey, Claver helped the veteran riders meet daily challenges ranging from freezing temperatures and spitting snow in Nevada to record heat in Kansas and the American Midwest. His leadership and direction kept the ride on schedule to its late July conclusion in Virginia.

"Mike played an unbelievably important role in planning for, leading and completing the ride,” said current World T.E.AM. Sports CEO and President Paul Tyler. “We all knew the ride would present unexpected challenges. Each time these challenges emerged, he dealt effectively and professionally with them as we all knew he would. The tattoos of the ride logo on several of the riders’ legs say it all - he changed lives through this remarkable event."

World T.E.A.M. Sports is thankful to have the support of individuals such as Mike and we hope that his retirement from State Farm is only the beginning of a long relationship with us,” said Van Brinson, the organization’s COO, who rode with the 2010 Sea to Shining Sea. Noting that Claver was a key director of the 2010 and the 2012 ride, Brinson notes that “his enthusiasm and dedication directly contributed to the success of both of those events.” Brinson also recognized the support of Helen Claver “for her support to our organization.”Mike Claver, standing, third from right, with his staff in San Francisco for the start of the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride. Van Brinson photograph.

The principal author for World T.E.A.M. Sports’ commemorative book of the 2012 ride, “Shining Seas,” Claver reports he is writing about his ride experiences. He also will spend more time with his family, including his young grandson Ethan.

Following his retirement, Claver will serve as a Pastor at his Morton, Illinois church and teach disaster preparedness at Illinois State University. He also was named by the Danvers Fire Department as Chaplain.

“While I’m retiring from State Farm, I am not retiring from the other things I have enjoyed doing that gave my life special meaning,” said Claver. “I look forward to the days ahead as we continue in our shared mission to make the world a better, safer place.”

Friday
Mar152013

Bill Czyzewski: Veteran, Hand Cyclist, Advocate

If you ever thought you couldn't make it up a hill, you need to meet Bill.

By Brenda Ruby

Last June, Bill Czyzewski and his trusty bike, affectionately nicknamed 'Pinky,' climbed eight miles, while conquering 5-8% grades, to summit Colorado's nearly 12,000 foot Loveland Pass. What makes this impressive feat extraordinary is the fact that 'Pinky' is a hand cycle and Bill is a disabled Vietnam Vet.

Bill Czyzewski and "Pinky" receive an assist in California during the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride. Photograph by Parker Feirbach.As a participant in the 2012 Sea to Shining Sea ride, organized by World T.E.A.M. Sports, Czyzewski and 13 other disabled veterans rode 3,700 miles from San Francisco to Virginia Beach in 60 days, raising awareness, changing perceptions and conquering physical and mental barriers along the way - providing the organization's T.E.A.M. moniker, that The Exceptional Athlete (does) Matter.

Several times while climbing that pass Bill was ready to give up, but teamwork and raw determination powered him when his arms were ready to quit.

"Many times going up the pass I didn't think I was going to make it and finally something kicked in; the motivation to get up just took over," Czyzewski recently told SPOKES. "People were looking at me like they couldn't believe I did it. It was an inspiration to them AND to me. It let me know what I could do."

This relevation, this journey, has ignited a passion in Bill to help other vets - to let them know that while war might have wounded them, they have dreams yet to be dreamed, accomplishments yet to be achieved and, most importantly, that they are not alone.

Bill's own journey that began so many years ago when a bullet pierced his upper leg, severely damaging the circulation and making the leg useless, took another life-altering turn 40 years later when a friend introduced him to the hand cycle.

Bill Czyzewski waves during the Veiled Prophet Parade in St. Louis, Missouri July 4, 2012. The Sea to Shining Sea team was invited by the parade organizers to ride in the well-known annual parade, covered by live television in St. Louis. Photograph by Parker Feirbach.Interested in improving his fitness, in early 2010 he requested, and received, a hand cycle from his local Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Taking to it "like a fish to water," the Bunker Hill, West Virginia resident started frequenting the nearby track at Musselman High School. At times, though, he would find the gate locked and needed to drive farther to find an available track. That changed when a worker at the school came out and handed him a key to the back gate saying, "Anyone like you who wants to come here and use the track is more than welcome."

One day while cycling his normal six to 12-mile training ride, Bill was asked if he was training for the Sea to Shining Sea ride. He wasn't at that point and didn't even know about the ride, but his interest was piqued.

Discovering it was a ride for vets, Bill tracked their progress online and decided to meet the group when they came in to Chambersburg, Pa. That's where Bill met Paul Bremer, then president and CEO of World T.E.A.M. Sports and the former U.S. Administrator to Iraq.

Impressed that he'd only been riding six months but eager to take on the challenge of their ride, Bremer invited Bill to meet them the next day in Emmitsburg, Md., for the ride into D.C.

Like many novices who are used to trails, Bill hadn't realized road riding would feel much different.

 

Read the full story from Spokes Magazine or download the story PDF from World T.E.A.M. Sports.