Editor’s Note: There’s no shortage of calamities and ensuing fundraisers these days. But when an Mtbr member reached out for help for a fellow veteran, the Mtbr NorCal forum community rallied and embraced the cause. What started as a small gift of any useable bike blossomed into a new rig, gear, and future purchases for a deserving veteran in a time of need.
Mark and Sergeant Dan
Mtbr member Mark (aka mzorich) served six years in the military and was inspired by Sergeant Dan who served 21 years as an aerial porter. The pair served together in Iraq and Kuwait, becoming friends along the way. Mark got out in 2015 and is now a Deputy Sheriff in Sutter County, California.
Sergeant Dan, however, has had rougher go. He was forced to retire due to PTSD and other physical issues. During their deployments, both were in active combat zones. And while not part of the infantry, they have both been shot at, had to return fire, and had rockets and mortars land way too close for comfort.
When Dan returned home in 2015 it took the Veterans Administration 18 months to get him his retirement and disability money paid out. During the ordeal, he nearly became homeless. As it was, he sold everything (including his mountain bike) to support his family and three sons. Dan finally got the money he was owed, but when one goes that long without income it’s hard to catch up.
Mark, meanwhile, knew that getting Dan back on the bike was an important tool for healing. After Mark’s last trip to Afghanistan, he’d experienced PTSD and combat stress himself, and mountain biking was the main tool that allowed him to heal. He explained that a solid climbing effort allowed him to focus on the task at hand. And a great descent allowed him to smile and relieve the stresses that haunted him and made it difficult to sleep.
With Sergeant Dan expressing a desire to ride again but no financial means to do it, Mark set out on a journey to get him a decent bike. He wrote to various organizations and bike manufacturers but with no insider contacts, he didn’t get anywhere. That’s when he had the idea to post on the Mtbr NorCal forum.
Here’s what Mark wrote to his fellow forum members:
So this post is for the best Sergeant (Dan), I ever had the pleasure of serving with during my 6 years in the military and he needs some help with his battle with PTSD. Dan does not know I am posting this and he did not ask me to do this.
This leads me to the point of this post and I’m presenting it to the biggest community I can. I want to get Dan on an XL 29er, as that’s what he had before these hard times hit. I don’t care if it’s new or used. I want him to be proud of the bike to help motivate him.
I want to ask you all for help. If you have contacts at bike companies, shops, or anything. I’m hesitant to ask for money, but if people would be willing to donate I would set up a GoFundMe page. I just want to give this awesome man a chance to be happy again. I currently have two bikes for sale and plan to use money from that to go towards a bike for him, but I need help. If you have ideas, can spread the word, can donate parts, frame, or money anything helps. Here’s the site: www.gofundme.com
Something struck a chord with the Mtbr members and it snowballed from there. The NorCal forum just finished a fundraiser for Santa Rosa fire victims and instead of feeling tapped out, they kept on giving. In the first 18 hours or so Mark raised more than $300. The goal from the beginning was to get Dan a new bike, but Mark wasn’t sure how feasible that would be. The idea was brought up to put together a used bike if we didn’t get enough funds. One member said he had a Yeti SB5 frame, another was going to donate brakes, Mtbr had a SRAM GX 11-speed group at the ready.
But after a week, with donations cresting $1000, an anonymous donor in SoCal contacted Mark saying if he could raise a few thousand dollars he would pay for the rest of the bike of his choice. The donor gave Mark a list of manufacturers. He chose a Specialized Stumpjumper 29er.
About 10 days later the GoFundMe campaign was close to $2500, which allowed for an upgrade to a SRAM Eagle group. Mark never met the donor and was a bit nervous sending him a check for $2500 without seeing the bike. But he took a leap of faith and was rewarded.
At this point it was about 12 days in to the project and another Mtbr forum member (B1ker) created a video that rebooted the campaign and got the GoFundMe up to $3500.
With an extra $1000, Mark was able to buy Dan a Troy Lee A1 helmet, a CamelBak hydration pack, and some trail tools and pump. There was even a little left over cash that was turned into a Visa gift card so Dan would have a little extra Christmas shopping money.
With shopping done, Mark sent the bike to Dan. Those initial texts all you need to know about the impact it had. Together they’d helped change a man’s life.
In the end, the GoFundMe stats were $3580 raised by 75 people in 22 days. It was also shared on Facebook 157 times. More importantly, Dan knew that there were people who cared about his story, his service, and his well being.
Afterward, we polled the Mtbr members who contributed, shared, and followed this story. Most spoke of the value of Sergeant Dan’s service, and the willingness and effort of another soldier to help his fellow veteran. Mark’s honesty and candor in his posts were genuine and heartfelt. And as mountain bikers, Mtbr members knew the true healing power of the bike.
Thank you for your service Mark and Sergeant Dan.
The original forum post where all the magic happened is here