SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Five retired Navy SEALs are making an 11-day journey down the east coast to raise money for VIP, a nonprofit center for disabled military, veterans and children with neuromuscular injuries.
They call themselves Beyond the Teams and they’ve been friends since they graduated Navy SEAL training more than 40 years ago.
One of the team’s founders, Mike Charbonnet, served for 20 years. He says the 1,000 mile bike ride is nothing compared to what they’ve been through during their service.
“You see things and you do things that are hard to forget. You have hard things happen to people that you care about,” Charbonnet told News 3 during the team’s stop in Savannah.
Charbonnet’s son, David, also served as a SEAL. After he broke his spine in a parachuting accident, he received outpatient therapy at the VIP Neuro-Rehabilitation clinic in San Diego.
“He’s doing all the things that a young SEAL-team guy does and the next thing you know he wakes up in a hospital and he’s paralyzed,” Charbonnet said. “He had to overcome a challenge a thousand times bigger than anyone I ever faced.”
That’s when Charbonnet got the idea to raise funds for the clinic by cycling from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Fort Pierce, Florida.
“The people that we’re riding to support would love to be riding a bicycle right now. They would give almost anything,” Charbonnet said.
“Are there a thousand good reasons not to do this? Yes,” he added. “But there are a couple of really compelling, good reasons to do this and that outweighs all of the negative stuff.”
The donations collected during the ride will provide VIP with specialized equipment for those who have difficulty moving due to stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries.
Beyond the Teams has raised over $60,000 so far.
Charbonnet says with more than half of the trip completed, they feel confident about finishing their mission strong.
“A thousand miles,” he said. “What could possibly go wrong?”