PINELLAS PARK (FOX 13) - A veteran from Indiana pushed himself to his physical limits in an effort to help his fellow vets and to raise awareness for veterans who struggle with their mental health.
Ricky Raley rode into Pinellas Park Saturday afternoon after completing a 1,500 mile trip across the country - and he did it all using a hand cycle.
“He's got the will of a bull and is as strong as an ox. So we're grateful to have him on the team," Shelly Kirkland told FOX 13 News.
Krikland is part of the Boot Campaign team.
“Over the course of the last 10 years we've raised almost $20 million to ignite the patriot in all of us, and provide life-improving programs to military families nationwide,” Kirkland explained of the Boot Campaign.
“The boot campaign came in a few years ago, and i just fell in love with the organization and how it felt like a tight knit family,” Raley said. “I went through the program this spring.”
Raley is a former National Guardsmen and Purple Heart recipient after his truck hit an IED in Iraq 10 years ago.
He and two other passengers were left with traumatic brain damage.
Six months after returning home, a car accident left him paralyzed.
“After that program, I felt like when I came to my family that I was a part of it,” Raley said. “With that hitting me like that I realized that I needed to do something like this ride to get out and push this message.”
Twelve days ago that's exactly what he did, starting at the 9-11 Memorial in New York, winding his way down the east coast, to eventually end at the Wounded Warriors Abilities Ranch in Pinellas Park.
“I just couldn't do something little… I couldn't just do something across the state. That's not big enough. I needed something to reach millions of people,” Raley said.
The ride was to raise awareness and funds for veterans to be able to treat their invisible wounds of war; the suffering that you can't see on the surface.
Raley raised just over $64,000 of his $150,000 goal.
He says he doesn't care that he came up short. He says his message is more important.
“Raising that awareness is way more important than raising the money because I think that once people understand what this program will do they'll understand the value and then the price tag doesn't seem as bad,” Raley said.