Jon Johnnidis of Axios Productions was selected as a finalist by RED Cinema Cameras, in conjunction with Outside TV, in the REDirect 2016: Explore competition. The project took Jon and his team on a 2 week journey from California to Carolina with a team of 13 wounded, disabled and supporting cyclists, both military and civilian, on the ride of a lifetime; a 3,113 mile journey across the country. This is the final product.
One of the first things Pam Kelly taught me when we met the day before our 3,113 mile journey across the country was the fact that on average 22 veterans per day take their own lives. Pam told me she too struggled for many years with this dark side after a horrible accident during service in the Army took everything but the use of her left arm. She lived a life of solitude, literally and figuratively, numbed by prescription drugs and a feeling of complete emptiness. She had all but given up, until one day a friend brought her out to watch them ride. It was at that moment when Adaptive Sports saved Pam's life.
13 years after her injury, Pam is getting ready to be the first cycling team on this epic journey from California to Carolina. While she is a professional hand-cyclist with a proven track record on multiple journeys such as the 450 mile Army/Navy Ride 2 Recovery and the Gulf Coast Challenge from Georgia to New Orleans, this was her first time ever attempting this many consecutive miles in such a short period of time. That coupled with the fact she didn't know a single person beyond a few telephone calls prior to the trip gave her a bit of expected hesitancy altogether. "Who was this crazy Aaron person trying to get someone with one arm to ride across the country?" was her initial reaction.
Well, it turns out the strength in Pam's one arm pushing and pulling that hand pedal for dozens of miles in a row, and the unbreakable spirit she emanates throughout, is more powerful than 10 "able-bodied" legs combined. As the days went on, I took absolute pleasure in watching Pam's smile get bigger, her laughter louder, and the bonds with her fellow riders become stronger.
In Pam's words, Adaptive Sports saved her life. The fact that individuals facing life altering injuries who have lost all hope can actually live better lives then they had before is a foreign idea to many of these wounded soldiers and civilians. It's foundations like Carolinas HealthCare System, The Independence Fund, and the Semper Fi Fund who are saving lives daily by introducing and supporting adaptive sports programs on all levels for anyone in need. Continue to support these programs, our riders, and the 22 solider's everyday who think there is no escape from their current state of mind. Pam has taught me that literally ANYTHING can be accomplished with the strength of just one hand.
Jon Johnnidis - DP/Director: Adapt & Conquer
Sitting next to active Lt. Col. Tres Smith of the United States Marine Corps, war hero, as he drove lead vehicle during our cross-country ride, we talked for over an hour about his time in combat, the wounds he's received both physically and emotionally, and the healing effects all of these riders are experiencing through the camaraderie and unity of this adventure. Adaptive Sports has brought this incredibly diverse and inspirational group of people together who may otherwise not have met, and have built long lasting relationships and the ability to bond over something only they can relate to.
The laundry list of Tres' military achievements made me feel honored to be sitting next to this man and thankful to know we have warriors like him fighting for our way of life. A decorated war hero who was shot down while choppering in supplies to troops fighting on the ground in Afghanistan, he sustained 6 bullet holes with one, as he puts it, "magic bullet." Injured but not deterred, he worked like a maniac to get his body healed so he could return to his squadron and continue the fight. He returned to Afghanistan and beyond numerous times after his injury and is currently an active Marine working at the Pentagon.
Tres' determination is complimented with a dry sense of humor and an overwhelming calm no matter what he is presented with. 40 mile stretches, into 3 hour drives, then back on the road; Tres welcomed with ease. For me, one of the highlights of the trip was when Tres offered me his road bike to join the group for a 20 mile stretch. It was an honor to cycle with these athletes and Im thankful to Tres for giving me that unique opportunity.
Watch Tres' short video clip up top, then the full story below and vote "like" on youtube to support our team!
- Jon Johnnidis: Adapt & Conquer DP/Director
Joey Bashaw is one bad ass rider. As a fellow New Yorker (now living in Charlotte), I really appreciated Joey's no nonsense, let's get it done attitude which he seems to apply to every aspect of his life, both on the road and off. As a hand cyclist, he is a an absolute powerhouse. Whenever he was on the road, we knew the pace would be set high and miles would be covered with speed and precision. We shared stories of different adventure activities we enjoyed participated in, ranging from scuba diving to kayaking, and the idea of being "disabled" seemed to be the furthest obstacle in his mind. He jumped in on day one of the ride to help plan out the route and maintained a sense of calm through some of the toughest stretches of road and grueling physical endurance.
One of the most touching moments of the trip for me was when we finally made it back to Joey's home town in Charlotte, North Carolina and he was greeted by his overjoyed girlfriend Brittney Ebert. The two of them together made it clear why Joey was cycling so hard, as he put it, "to get home to her." My favorite quote from Brittney after a big hug to Joey was when she told me"I made him some slimy, sloppy eggs at home. Already made 'em for him." Now that's love!
It's hero's like Joey Bashaw that truly inspire me and drive home the idea that yes, anything can be accomplished with desire, determination, and drive.
Don't forget to watch the full version of Adapt & Conquer below and vote "like" on the Youtube page to support our team!
Meet Congressman Larry Kissell. Larry was the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 8th congressional district, serving from 2009 to 2013. On the team, Larry brought humor, the ability to help out in any role he was needed, and experience; this trip was his second time crossing the country on a bike! Supporting our wounded and disabled military veterans, and civilians, has always been an important cause for Larry both in his personal and professional life, and this journey was just another opportunity to show his commitment.
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