BAR HARBOR — Retired Marine and U.S. Paralympian Rob Jones is on a quest to raise $1 million for the charities that supported him after he was wounded in Afghanistan in 2010. Jones kicked off his cross-country cycling trek in Bar Harbor on Monday and doesn't plan to quit until he's reached San Diego, Calif., sometime between February and April.
What makes Rob's journey so unique is that he will be pedaling his bicycle with prosthetic legs. During his deployment to Afghanistan, the Marine combat engineer was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), resulting in double above-knee amputations of both his legs.
"Most people don't understand just how difficult it is to ride a bike with prostheses," Jones explained in a news release. "Most people use their quads, calves and glutes to pedal, while I am only able to use my glutes. It's extremely challenging, but I'm determined to achieve my goal."
Jones is no stranger to world-class achievements. Last summer, he and his partner won a Bronze Medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London in the Trunk and Arms Mixed Double Sculls event. He has competed in the Marine Corps 10K (6.2 Miles), the Army 10-Miler, the Charlottesville Half Marathon, the CFI Mini Triathlon, and the Nation's Olympic Distance Triathlon (a 0.9-mile swim, 24-mile bike, and a 6.2-mile run). In 2012, Jones was named USARowing's "Man of the Year."
His journey will take him from Bar Harbor south along the Atlantic seaboard to Blacksburg, Va., where he will pivot west and begin the cross-continental march to San Francisco. He will then continue south toward his personal finish line in San Diego. By then, he will have covered 5,400 miles, averaging 30 miles per day.
Why is he doing this?
"It's simple, really. I am committed to giving back to the charitable organizations that were there for me in my darkest hours," he said in the release. "They helped me stand back up on new legs, learn how to walk again, then ride a bike again, then become a world-class rower. Now, with the help of patriotic and generous Americans, I intend to pay it forward, so those organizations can help even more wounded soldiers, like me, in their time of greatest need."
Virtually unique among other ambitious fundraising initiatives, 100 percent of the money donated to the Rob Jones Journey will go to the charities he is supporting: The Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, the Semper Fi Fund and Ride 2 Recovery. Jones has already secured enough funds to purchase the equipment, including a support vehicle, he'll need to complete his trip. He will be counting on the kindness of his fellow Americans for an occasional meal and overnight accommodations; but all cash donations made through his web site, RobJonesJourney.com, will pass directly through to the charities.
His fundraising goal is $1 million.
"It's important to me that people know I'm not getting anything out of this financially," Jones explained. "While I will accept certain in-kind sponsorships from companies that want to support me, any cash they provide will go straight to the charities. Just like the funds individuals donate. This is truly all about giving back."
Jones has already secured one corporate supporter, Bonk Breaker Energy Bars, which is supplying its products to help fuel his journey.
"Rob is one of the most inspiring men I have ever had the honor to meet," said David Walker, President & CEO of the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, in the news release. "He is obviously a unique individual, but the role he plays in motivating and challenging his fellow combat wounded and in raising funds and awareness for organizations like ours, is extraordinary."
In his short adaptive rowing career, Jones and his Team Bad Company partner, Oksana Masters, have won several major competitions, including the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Selection Trials, the 2012 World Rowing Final Paralympic Qualifier in Belgrade, Serbia, and the 2013 U.S. Para-Rowing Championships. The pair placed third in the Samsung World Rowing Cup in England earlier this year, and fourth at the World Championships in South Korea in August.
To learn more about Jones or to support his fundraising trek, visit RobJonesJourney.com.