ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - On Saturday, hundreds gathered to honor some of the nation's greatest heroes outside of Tropicana Field. More than 400 cyclists donned their helmets and laced up their shoes to take part in the 2020 Florida Honor Ride.
"We'll have over 450 riders out here, a mix of veterans and non-veterans,” said Mitch Lee with Project Hero. “Riding helps everybody, but it especially helps our wounded and injured vets."
Saturday was the 8th annual ride dedicated to veterans and first responders as a way to come together and say thank you.
"We think it's really important to support those who have served our country,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman who took part in Saturday's event with his wife. “So for us, being able to be out here, it's kind of humbling."
For many veterans and first responders, it hasn't always been an easy road.
"I've had several combat injuries,” said Jerry Wayne Padgett, II, a local veteran. “Recently, while cycling on Causeway Boulevard, I got hit by a distracted driver and I gave up on everything."
However, through cycling, many vets have found a new sense of hope, friendship and understanding.
"It changes your attitude, it changes your perspective, that's why I'm out here," explained Padgett.
Saturday's event gave the community a glimpse into the purpose and passion behind Project Hero, the organization responsible for putting on the ride.
"This is an amazing, therapeutic process basically.” “We get injured veterans off the couch and plugged back into life. They eat better, sleep better, get off their meds."
With three different routes for Saturday's ride, cyclists chose between a 20-mile, 40-mile or 60-mile trip. Strangers came together, each choosing a different path, but all for the same meaningful cause.
"It's an amazing thing to watch the transformation of these individuals, when they go from a dark place to just an amazing place," explained Lee.
Click here to learn more about Project Hero.