Rick Proctor is a man on a mission to help veterans get a quad. Why? Because with the increasing number of vets coming home with signs or symptoms of PTSD, it’s becoming more and more important to find resources to make sure these servicemen and servicewomen get help. What better therapy than a quad, the open trail, and little bit of adrenaline? The Department of Veteran Affairs website states that, among veterans, about 11-20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have PTSD. So for every 100 veterans returning home, somewhere between 11 and 20 of them are affected – and that’s only the number of diagnosed cases. It’s estimated the actual number is much higher. As resources are stretched tight for this kind of treatment, that’s where the non-profit comes in – Vigilant Vet Racing. Speaking from personal experience, Rick explains what Vigilant Vet racing is. Read our questions below to find out more about how you can help and what the program is and where to find it.
I’m an Iraqi Freedom Veteran myself, having spent nearly 1 year there in 2004 as a combat medic and was diagnosed with PTSD soon after returning home. A friend of mine took me to a XC race last year and I bought a quad the following week. As I started to notice some relief that riding and racing gave me, I figured that it may be able to help other veterans as well so I started blogging. Before you know it, we were incorporating and forming a nonprofit organization.
Our mission is to spread awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) via education, but also attempt to keep the subject on the front page so to speak so that our vets are not forgotten. We also are trying to get more disabled veterans and their families involved in ATV riding/racing as a form of therapy and a means to heal and re-bond.
Eventually, our plans are to start sending qualified disabled vets and their families on weekend getaways to various riding locations such as the Hatfield & McCoy trails, provide them an ATV or UTV for the weekend, lodging and meals, etc. We also want to have a social worker or therapist on hand to talk to the vets and their families while they are there to maybe help them determine if they need to seek additional treatment, etc. This is still in the development phase, but we hope to have this plan implemented in the next few months.
What would you say your biggest challenge is right now? And where do you need help?
The biggest challenge so far is that this project is taking off faster than I can keep up, but that is definitely a problem I can live with! [laughs] Seriously though, my educational background is in business administration so I knew very little about the nonprofit sector until I decided to form this organization. I’m learning everything on the fly which means even the simplest tasks take about 3 times longer than I’m sure it normally would. Since we are so new, we’re looking for help in nearly every area of the organization. However, our immediate needs are an attorney to guide and advise us and an accountant to properly set our records up and keep us fiscally sound. We also have a HUGE need for a web designer or someone who can at least get a site setup properly. I have some IT background, but it is really a time issue for me. Obviously we could go out and fill all of these needs today, but we are looking for volunteers so that we can funnel as much of our donations and “revenues” toward the mission as possible.
How can people get involved with this program specifically, beyond just a Facebook like?
There are several ways that people can get involved. Obviously charities are mostly made up of volunteers, so that will be one of the more popular (and needed) ways to contribute as our programs start to roll out. Monetary donations go toward building adapted ATVs for veterans who have one or more physical disabilities, riding and safety equipment for vets, riders safety courses for vets and just about anything else you can think of that will help a veteran get out on the trails, clear their mind, enjoy nature and feel that adrenaline rush. We also plan to fund weekend getaways for qualified veterans and their family to destinations such as the Hatfield & McCoy trails in WV where we will provide equipment (if needed), lodging, meals, etc. We also intend to have a social worker or family counselor on hand to provide services to our heroes and their support staff at home.
Are there any plans to maybe hold a fundraising type race to help promote in addition to gaining some money for program?
That idea has definitely been brought up more than once and I can guarantee that we will have some sort of race in the future. For now, we are planning an off-road poker run in a riding area near Uniontown, PA. This is tentatively scheduled for a non-GNCC racing weekend in September and is not only going to be a fundraiser, but a means to get families together and enjoy the trails while supporting a great cause.
Do you think it’s going to be hard to convince vets to get on a quad? It seems like you took right to it!
Well, as we all know this is NOT a cheap sport and I believe this to be the largest barrier preventing most individuals from trying it out. A close second is the fact that some of our wounded heroes will need to have their quads adapted to not only allow them to ride, but to do so safely. Lastly, veterans need to know about the sport and its potential benefits to their mental & physical health to get involved. VVR is going to take as many of these barriers away as possible. We want to get to the point that we can purchase new equipment for interested vets as well as provide a lesson or two about maintenance and safe riding.
We’ve already started and are about to roll out our first adapted ATV build! You may have heard of a dealership back East called Waynesburg Yamaha… Well, VVR has worked closely with them to build an adapted quad for our first Veteran racer/rider, Brandon Rumbaugh. Brandon lost both of his legs while rushing to the aid of a fellow Marine during his tour in Afghanistan. Obviously this build required careful thought and innovative thinking so the owner of the Waynesburg Yamaha, Brian Vasko, immediately got to work recruiting several aftermarket companies to build specialized parts for this bike. Lone Star Racing built a set of nerfs that have mountain bike pedals welded in rather than the standard foot pegs. Brandon will wear bike shoes on his prosthetics which will snap into the bike pedal nerfs. This will add stability while but allow him to break away should he experience a get off. Custom Axis built a set of “custom” shocks for Brandon’s bike which will give him a plush ride as he will be seated the entire time. The list of supporters goes on and we could literally write an entire article on this particular build. Our goal is to continue doing builds like this so that our nation’s heroes can get out and enjoy the trails and better enjoy life.
That’s amazing. We really have the best community.
How are you currently promoting? You mentioned racing GNCC…
GNCC and Racer Productions have provided Vigilant Vet Racing opportunities that have catapulted us toward success. Tim Cotter works for Racer Productions and presented the idea of allowing VVR to set up on Vendor’s Row for each GNCC race. Considering our mission, we couldn’t have asked for a better way to market our new organization. Tim allowed us to literally be placed right in front of the very eyes we were trying to attract. Now that we have the racers and race fans’ attention, word is spreading out to vets who want to race and/or ride and they are starting to contact us. Racer Productions, GNCC and specifically Tim Cotter get most of the credit for VVR’s overnight success and without them, we’d be struggling. It takes people like them, who care about our veterans and want to give back that push us towards success. I will forever be grateful for their generosity.
To keep up to date on Vigilant Vet Racing, donate, volunteer, or help in another way, visit their Facebook page, Vigilant Vet Racing.
To find out more about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) visit this website: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/