money for injured Marines

by Jennifer D'Ottavio - Nov. 10, 2008 01:06 PM
The Arizona Republic

A team of 21 riders led by a Mesa man pedaled more than 430 miles from Scottsdale to Oceanside, Calif., through arid deserts, steep mountains and farm land to raise money for injured Marines.

The "Ride for Semper Fi" took place Oct. 22-26 and ended at Camp Pendleton where riders presented the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund with a check for $72,240.

The non-profit organization has provided more than $21 million through 8,000 grants to
Marines and sailors injured in combat, training or with life-threatening illnesses.

The assistance helps with immediate and continuing needs, such as modified transportation, home modifications and specialized equipment. Assistance is also provided for family members who stop working to care for soldiers.

John Greenway of Mesa initiated the ride after watching his nephew Jeffrey Turnage graduate from Marine boot camp in San Diego last year. He said that it was a humbling experience and brought feelings of patriotism that made him want to give back.

The team departed from DNA cycles in Scottsdale and was escorted by Scottsdale police until they left the city limits.

The team rode more than 100 miles the first day and spent the first night in Quartzite, a small town near the Colorado River and Interstate 10. After dinner the riders shared their reasons for participating in the 430-mile journey.

One is a Marine who completed more than 50 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke about the war and what it was like to bring men and women off the battlefield.

Another man has a son who served three tours in Iraq and has received four purple hearts. He rode in honor of his son.

As team members shared their experiences and reasons for participating, the reality of what they were doing began to sink in.

"What we did was so small in comparison," Greenway said. "These people are so young yet are making an incredible sacrifice."

One of the biggest challenges for the rides came on the third day.

The mountains that lay in front of them were at least a 12 percent grade and challenged even the most skilled riders.

The stronger riders fell behind the rest of the group and placed their hands on the backside of other riders and pushed them up the long climb.

"This climb was an effort that would be challenging for any level rider," Greenway wrote in his blog. "Even though some of those guys were slower up the climb, they did it. They never complained, they never quit and they pedaled through what was arguably their greatest athletic challenge."

The fourth and final day, the team arrived in Oceanside accompanied by police escort into Camp Pendleton Marine Base.

Greenway said the response from the Marines was overwhelming.

Greenway said donations came from people from all walks of life and he even received help from those he never expected.

A major sponsor in the ride was Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of Go Daddy, an internet domain registrar and Web hosting company. He found out about the ride after receiving an e-mail from an employee asking him to contribute to the fund.

The former Marine supplied the riders with a van and a full-time driver to remain behind the team. He also supplied the team with jerseys and paid for their lodging.

Also accompanying the Go Daddy van were two RVs. One of which was driven by a former Marine who wanted to contribute to the ride.

The RVs, carrying a support team consisting of friends and family members, drove ahead of the team and stopped at rest areas every 30 miles or so to provide food and water to the riders.

Greenway said he's already planning next year's ride.

"As long as there are young people over there fighting, they're going to need our help," Greenway said.

The team will begin training in the next few weeks and will be looking for more corporate sponsors. They will expand the team to 30 riders and will begin fundraising efforts July 4. For more information go to