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Paralyzed veteran finishes fund-raising wheelchair ride from New York to Pinellas Park

Ricky Raley prepares to take off Saturday morning from the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital for the last stretch of his 1,500-mile handbike journey from New York. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times]
Published Aug. 25, 2018

TAMPA — A paralyzed veteran has finished a two-week, $1,500 fund-raising ride that started in New York, setting out from Tampa at 9 a.m. today in his hand-crank cycle and reaching the finish line in Pinellas Park just before 1 p,m,

Ricky Raley is raising money for the Texas-based Boot Campaign to help veterans suffering from "invisible wounds of war," including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, insomnia and self-medication.

The Raley Road Trip started Aug. 13 at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in Manhattan and finished at the Wounded Warrior Abilities Ranch in Pinellas Park. He started the final stretch Saturday morning at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa.

#RaleyRoadTrip reached the finish line at 12:55 PM EST today. This marks the end of @rickyraley's two-week, 1500+ mile handcycle journey, but his mission to combat invisible wounds in not over. Retweet to show your support and visit https://t.co/HDmuojwNK8 to donate. #veterans pic.twitter.com/eWF0KCqUaH

Raley is a former Indiana Army National Guard Soldier with a Purple Heart medal from a combat injury in Iraq and was paralyzed in a 2009 truck accident back home.

He has been averaging about 130 miles a day on the road trip, riding a hand-crank cycle made by one of his sponsors — Top End Wheelchairs of Pinellas Park. Mike DeLancey, a founder of the Wounded Warrior Abilities Ranch, rode alongside Raley during the trip. DeLancey is also a paralyzed veteran, injured in Iraq.

The ranch is still under development and is scheduled for a grand opening next week.

Raley went through an intensive four-week rehabilitation program offered by the Boot Campaign and is raising money to help other veterans enter the program, as well. As of this afternoon, the road trip had raised $64,000 of its $150,000 goal.

Since it was founded by five women in 2011, the Boot Campaign has raised more than $19 million and given more than $2 million annually to help service members, veterans and their families, according to the group's website.

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