For those who serve, the serving never ends, even long after they’ve retired. Just ask San Diegan Mike Charbonnet and his four teammates. The five of them are preparing to ride 1,000 miles to benefit VIP NeuroRehabilitation Center in San Diego. All five are now grandfathers in their 60s, but graduated together from BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEALS) in 1978.
SEAL training is among the most difficult in all the armed forces. So, it is perhaps no wonder these men are still at it, but even so, Charbonnet has a very personal connection with the beneficiary of the group’s inaugural ride. VIP is one of Southern California’s leaders in neuro-rehabilitation therapy, and Charbonnet is indebted to the organization for the incredible support they gave his son following a skydiving accident in which he was paralyzed.
“They not only helped him physically,” Charbonnet explains, “they helped feeding his spirits and returning joy to his life.” In fact, last year Charbonnet rode from San Francisco to San Diego to benefit VIP, which serves not only veterans but anyone four years old and up suffering as a result of stroke, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, or the like. When Charbonnet’s former SEAL classmates/teammates heard what he was doing, they wanted in on the action.
Riding for a Cause
Calling themselves Beyond the Teams, the group’s mission is specifically to raise awareness about the many remarkable and unique organizations like VIP working to help injured veterans and others, and they will not always be riding bikes. They’ve discussed such things as swimming across Chesapeake Bay and paddle boarding to shore from San Clemente Island.
This time, though, they’ll be on their bikes. And fittingly, the ride will begin at the epicenter of Naval Special Warfare in Virginia Beach and finish at the birthplace of Navy Frogman/SEALS in Ft. Pierce, Florida. The ride will begin October 29 and conclude November 9, with riders eager to get started. “We bring the same passion and purpose to this fundraising mission as we did to our SEAL missions,” says Charbonnet. That’s saying something, as during their military careers, they served in some of the most dangerous hotspots around the globe.
“Our training and service has taught us that we are stronger as a team than as individuals. So, we pool our resources. It is our hope that our past work helps draw attention to our new work, not to ourselves, but to raise awareness of, and money for, those we serve,” says Charbonnet. beyondtheteams.org