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Jun 12, 2013 12:08 PM by Samantha Ptashkin

Tucson cyclists to honor Vets with RAGBAI ride

TUCSON- The stars and stripes keep their wheels spinning.

"It helps you get through those really challenging moments," Aimee Snyder says.

Snyder is one of 12 Southern Arizona cyclists who belong to Team AZZ Hurtz.

Each week they ride about 100 miles, prepping for an annual bike ride called The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or "RAGBAI". "It's about 500 miles across the state of Iowa," Rider Aaron Wilson says. "There are a bunch of host towns and the residents there all host riders."

Wilson started participating in RAGBAI a few years ago. Every year his team rides for a cause. Over the last few years they have raised about $50,000, helping patients with breast cancer, a little boy with cerebral palsy and a girl from Vail in need of a heart transplant.

This year they are raising money for the Southern Arizona Honor Flight, which gives World War II veterans a free three-day trip to see the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.

Wilson, a retired member of the United States Air Force, got the idea after randomly being on the same flight as one group of veterans. "Time is of the essence," Wilson says. "The longer we wait, the more vets there are that can no longer go on the trip."

Right now there are nearly 200 veterans in Southern Arizona on the waiting list. The trip costs about $1,000 per vet. All funds are raised through private donations from the community.
"Unfortunately we're losing our veterans and we're losing that piece of history," Synder says.

She says the trip is critical because it pays tribute to their service. "But it also helps share the story to connect our youth to what this country means and what the veterans' freedom means," Snyder says.

"It's just great to get up everyday and have this opportunity," Rider Tom Heath says. "Then you think about these veterans from WWII and before and how they gave us this opportunity."

The cyclists know the ride won't be easy.

But they say it will be worth it, if it means bringing a bit of glory to a group who fought so hard for our freedom. "We want to give them a piece of life that they deserve," Wilson says.

RAGBAI runs July 21-July 27. To learn how you can donate to Team AZZ Hurtz, contact Aaron Wilson at aaron.wilson7@cox.net or call him at: 520-444-2228. You can also visit: www.gofundme.com/azzhurtz

You can also check out the group's Facebook page: "Team AZZ Hurtz Rides Across Iowa"

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