Disabled vets compete in 'Tour of Elk Grove' race

August 4, 2011 (ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill.)

The Tour of Elk Grove is one of the top cycling races in the world and for members of the Heart of a Marine Foundation, it's the first for disabled bike riders to be part of an elite event. It's all about cycling and scenery.

Veterans from different branches of the Armed Forces have been training for the tour.

"We really want our disabled athletes, our wounded heroes to show that they are still very viable people. They are not to be seen as handicapped but very strong individuals and this is an opportunity to do that," said Georgetta Frank, co-founder of the Heart of a Marine Foundation.

The organization is named for Frank's son Phil who was killed in action.

"We offered to reimburse all of those who register for their registration fee and the foundation is providing the prize so there will be a prize and we are providing that money," she said.

The Tour of Elk Grove is a three-day event that takes place August 5-7. On the August 7, adaptive riders will bike one and half miles.

Alberto Velasco was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

"I was released from active duty in 2006 and a year later when I was coming home from work I got into a accident," he said. " I am a TST6 paraplegic so I'm pretty much injured from the chest down."

Velasco purchased his bike a year after becoming disabled.

"I couldn't outside for a while but I would use like a stand and ride it inside so I started training a little bit and getting a little bit better. God willing, if everything goes well, I'll be doing the Chicago marathon," he said.

Pedro Medina was a master sergeant in the Army. He became disabled in 2009

"I was doing a tour in Afghanistan and during a transfer at FOBS Salerno a building structure collapsed I was in inside the building and a support bean I ended up getting crushed," said Medina. "Part of my limitation is upper body strength. Hand cycle helps that upper body strength as well as my cardiovascular system get my blood pressure and cholesterol and all the good stuff down."

Avid biker and mayor of Elk Grove Village Craig Johnson is thrilled to have these honorable veterans as part of this event.

"Because people are so appreciative of what they've done on our behalf, it's a way to show a thank you to them and let them know that they're athletes like anyone else out there competing. We support them, encourage them and we're proud to have them here," said Johnson.

The Tour of Elk Grove starts Friday. For more information, visit www.heartofamarine.org/home.aspx.

Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.