Riding For Our Heroes

By: Lorne Chan Spurs.com

 Thousands of soldiers across America have returned home from war to find that struggles at home of paying bills, feeding their families and covering basic needs are more battles to fight.

Twenty-four cyclists are riding across Texas to help raise money for military members back home.

They’re part of Ride Texas, and they’re biking 500 miles from Wichita Falls to Corpus Christi in five days to support Wish For Our Heroes, a charity that grants relief for basic needs or emergency situations to military members in need.

The riders stopped at Toyota Field for a break on Thursday, where Tony Parker and Becky Hammon were there to greet them.

“It’s amazing to me,” Parker said. “All the sacrifices they’ve made, it’s very humbling to be here to say ‘Thank You.’ Their stories are unbelievable and very inspiring.”

Parker and Hammon represented Spurs Sports & Entertainment and joined with SWBC President Gary Dudley and SWBC Chairman Charlie Amato to thank the riders and spend some time with them on their trip.

“We really love the Spurs and really love what the organization is doing for Wish For Our Heroes,” said Ride Texas captain Joe Steele, who spent eight years in military service. “It’s just awesome. We really appreciate their support for our ride.”

Former Army Captain Jeff Wells founded Wish For Our Heroes in 2009, when he saw soldiers who were struggling with their return from war. The foundation started out by collecting donations in military boots at red lights and has since grown to give out more than $15 million in assistance to more than 3,000 families.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was one of the earliest donors.

“Coach Pop has been involved since almost the very beginning,” Wells said. “He just called us up one day and asked how he could help. He’s been helping ever since.”

The organization aims to grant relief for needs such as groceries, car repairs, home repairs, baby supplies, or medical bills.

Some of the wishes the organization granted in the past month included airfare for a Navy member to see his wife, who was in hospice care for late-stage cancer. Wish For Our Heroes also donated baby supplies and clothes for a father in the military, emergency dental surgery for a mother in the military and a donated car that will allow a military member to get to work, all in the past few weeks.

Last year, Wish For Our Heroes gave more than $300,000 to military families for food.

 “Our veterans are a forgotten sector of our community sometimes, and that needs to change,” Hammon said. “They lay it all out on the line for us. Sports are a tiny blip on the radar compared to what our veterans have done, and we need to step up. They should never be forgotten. This shouldn’t happen in America.”

On Thursday, the organization granted a wish to John Arroyo, who was shot in the 2014 Fort Hood Shooting. Wish For Our Heroes helped provide support for medical bills for Arroyo’s family.

The foundation accepts donations at wishforourheroes.org. Another way to give a $10 donation is by texting “AMERICA” to 20222.

“We get caught in the daily routines of work and everything else when the reality is that people are over there fighting for us to have our freedoms,” Hammon said.

“It’s a privilege to get to spend time with them, to have a chance to listen to some of their stories. It’s actually one of the best perks of being part of the NBA.”