Ride held to benefit veterans

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Freddy Creutz of Watervliet on his motorcycle leads foot- and hand-pedaled cyclists Saturday morning from the parking lot of St. Joseph’s Church in Broadalbin for a 10- and 30-mile biking fundraiser by the Team Albany Adaptive Suports Program of the VA Hospital in Albany. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

BROADALBIN — Veteran Freddy Creutz of Watervliet is deaf today, without hearing aids, from the concussion of a grenade.

After that, he recalled, “I didn’t have a lot of confidence.”

When he got involved with other veterans through the Albany VA’s Team Albany Adaptive Sports Program, “I got a lot of support, a lot of positives came into my life,” he said.

“I love my life today. I have a good life today.”

Creutz, on a motorcycle, led bicyclists out of St. Joseph’s Church parking lot Saturday for a 10- or 30-mile ride around the Great Sacandaga Lake to benefit the veterans program—both foot- and hand-pedaled cyclists.

William Ward, a Marine veteran, lost mobility in his legs from a motorcycle accident. Riding a hand-pedaled bicycle, he showed up at the event “to bring awareness of the adaptive program and to motivate each other to stay in shape and bring others in.”

Veterans “don’t have to be defined by their disabilities,” he said.

“I’ve learned to ski sitting by watching other vets do it,” Ward said.

“It pushes you just to try it.”

Norm Moreg agreed, “These guys are a great inspiration.” Moreg broke his back in a parachute jump. He has served in the 82nd Airborne Division and as an Air Force paramedic.

Peter Riccotta of Canajoharie, an Air Force veteran with multiple sclerosis, said he likes the camaraderie. “It’s good to keep up the relations with other people,” he said.

Jason Pollack of Salem, a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, lost his leg movement when a tree fell on him. Once an avid mountain climber, he planned to complete the 30-mile course on his hand-pedaled cycle Saturday.

Michele Ferrauile, who coordinates the adaptive sports program, called Pollack “a rugged athlete” as a downhill skier and mountain climber.

“We try to keep these veterans out in the world, staying active, keeping in shape, and supporting each other,” she said.

“We try to provide a wide variety of events depending on what they want to do,” she said. That could include cycling, fishing, kayaking, rock climbing, golf, basketball, softball, track and field sports, and others.

Tricia Ricotta, as her husband’s caregiver, said she finds that other caregivers “understand what you’re going through.” Caregiving is “a lot of work,” including emotional stresses, she said.

The cycling event “got us out doing an activity together”—both veterans and their caregivers, said Jessica Ward of Glenville.

Mary Nell Schmitz, recreation supervisor for the adaptive sports program, estimated that 30 to 35 riders showed up and about 30 other people were serving as marshals along the route. T-shirts, food and gift bags were donated for the participants. Veterans rode for free, but the program accepted $1 per mile donations from other participants.

By Patricia Older

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