Early last May, Navy Veteran Tracy Sefcik from Wheeling, Illinois completed a 3,142 mile bicycle ride from San Diego, California to St. Augustine, Florida. The trip saw her riding between 65 and 75 miles a day throughout the first part of her cross-country tour until pulling back to around 50 miles a day toward the end as not outpace her timetable.
Sefcik undertook the monumental journey from coast to coast to raise funds for the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports military Veterans, first responders and their families. The organization is able to accomplish this through programs such as the Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment Program, which helps build home modifications, mobility devices and smart homes for severely wounded Veterans.
Sefcik also undertook the ocean to ocean odyssey for personal reasons as well. As a Navy Veteran, Sefcik served in Yokosuka, Japan aboard the USS Kittanning and later in Coronado, California. When asked, she said she rode to, “raise awareness for what military Veterans suffer after coming back from conflicts,” and that is what had motivated her ride above all.
Along the way, she encountered an outpouring of support from the people she encountered, both with their words and with their actions. Sefcik had set a goal of $25,000 for the Gary Sinise Foundation when she had set out from San Diego, and her ride has raised over $30,000 to date, passing her target.
The ride was not without its challenges. Biking across the country is challenging in its own right, but Sefcik also suffers from epilepsy. She had 16 seizures through the southern tier of her journey. Each time she would need to stop and wait for the 10- to 30-minute episodes to pass and need another hour to fully recover from the worst. While Sefcik described the attacks as scary; they never dissuaded her from her journey saying, “like others that suffer from physical disabilities, you learn to live with them and it becomes part of your life.” Sefcik chose to continue to ride to help others, despite this significant challenge to herself.
After returning from her 61-day ride, Sefcik felt adrift before realizing her purpose and meaning in her fundraising, saying, “When I returned home I felt lost, like I didn’t have any meaning in my life […] but I have a meaning. I need to cycle and raise money for another foundation.” That foundation was going to be the Oscar Mike Foundation. Oscar Mike takes its name from the military jargon for “On the Move” and provides support for paralyzed and amputee Veterans to move again through adaptive sports. Sefcik’s planned journey for 2021 could not be a better example for keeping former servicepeople moving and providing meaning through being active.
Her next ride will see Sefcik go through ten states, two countries and 2,547 miles in a loop from Chicago through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula into Canada. From there, Sefcik will re-enter the U.S. by passing Niagara Falls where she will ride into New York City on Sept. 11 to observe the 20th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. Sefcik will then finish her journey by passing down through New Jersey before heading back up to Chicago.
Sefcik says she plans to continue to ride in order to keep helping fellow Veterans through supporting organizations like that of the Gary Sinise and Oscar Mike foundations.
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If you wish to contribute to Sefcik’s cause, more information can be reached at her website: www.crosscountrycycle4vets.com